Gaining new groundby Wendy Shair
The rapid development of renminbi-based cross-border trade settlements and the booming Chinese economy is fuelling fast-paced growth for Hong Kong's banking sector. Financiers in the city are therefore increasingly looking to strengthen their foothold across the border.
As one of the city's most established finance houses, Wing Lung Bank, wholly owned by China Merchants Bank Group, is one financial institution that has penetrated the China market with great success.
"Following the acquisition by China Merchants Bank in 2008, Wing Lung has rolled out a number of positive changes, including an increased emphasis on tapping the global market," says Frankie Kwong, treasurer, Wing Lung Bank.
Mr Kwong, who joined the bank in January this year with the personal goal of furthering his career in treasury, points out that its parent company is a market leader in mainland China, with Wing Lung able to take advantage of this favourable position.
"It's therefore crucial that we work hard to enhance communications with China Merchants Bank and strive to increase our renminbi services," he stresses. "We're in a strong position to expand our service portfolio and we're driven to achieve this."
Mr Kwong travels frequently to mainland China nowadays, partly to conduct training sessions for staff. "This is part of our strategy, helping us to increase our network across the border," he says. The key to the bank's success is to cultivate a good understanding of customers' financial aspirations and needs. "Professionals in this sector must be able to relate to and work with people from a wide range of backgrounds," he adds.
As mainland China continues to open up, it is more important than ever that banking institutions draw new talent to carry the momentum. This also explains the growing popularity of Wing Lung Bank's graduate trainee programme.
Puk Wing-ting, currently head of sales management, wealth management department, Wing Lung Bank, was a management trainee in the bank's treasury department back in 1995. He says: "I found the training at the treasury department excitingly inspiring and I learnt a lot about the stock market, money market and other international markets at the time."
The trainee programme gave him a strong sense of the industry, which led to plenty of opportunities to interact with clients from different walks of life. "I was also fortunate to get a chance to visit Deutsche Bank in Germany, which helped to broaden my horizons," he recalls.
With a solid foundation to build on, Mr Puk left the company in 2002 to explore other options, but last year returned to the bank, seeing excellent opportunities for the institution to expand its renminbi services.
"The market had experienced a great deal of volatility, but mainland-based banks remained strong and are progressively gaining new ground internationally," he points out.
To capitalise on the expanding potential of the China market, Wing Lung is looking to hire outstanding professionals with a sound knowledge of the mainland banking industry, Mr Kwong notes.
Prospective recruits should be dedicated and positive, passionate about the job and open to new ideas. "It's crucial that they're good communicators, since it's part of our job to identify and grasp the wide-ranging financial needs of our different customer segments in both Hong Kong and mainland China," he adds.
Mr Puk stresses that the working environment is highly competitive. He remarks: "Budding professionals must be willing to learn the ropes and be good team players. With a positive market outlook, Hong Kong will continue to enhance its reputation as a key wealth management hub in Greater China."
Wing Lung Bank offers a promising upward career trajectory for high-calibre talent. The right personnel also have access to a range of cross-border exchange programmes. "Our employees may choose to advance vertically or horizontally within this dynamic field. Outstanding performers can expect to be richly rewarded through various incentives and substantial salary increases," Mr Puk says.
He adds that every Wing Lung staff member has an exhaustive to-do list, which helps the workforce to focus on a common goal. "We hope to further increase our wealth management services and to advance our skills and business platform," he reveals. "In the long run, our aim is to expand Wing Lung's professional image in Hong Kong. We're on a steep learning curve and there's always room for growth. We're already in good shape, but this doesn't mean we'll be resting on our laurels."
Work in progress
Taken from Career Times 18 March 2011, A3