The growing popularity of wealth management products and services among consumers means there is no immediate likelihood of a slowdown in the demand for financial planning professionals. Banks and other financial institutions are continuing to hire as fast as they reasonably can and remain confident that this area of their business will just keep growing.
Asia banking expert DBS Bank, for example, expects to increase its local team of wealth management professionals by 30 per cent in the next two years. According to June Ng, managing director and head of human resources in Greater China, the bank usually has three or four targeted recruitment campaigns each year. She stresses, though, that the door is always open for suitable candidates.
Depending on their experience, recruits will become either financial planning officers or managers, dealing with general customers, or Treasures relationship managers responsible for high net-worth clients and offering a wider range of products. Usually, it would take a new joiner around one to two years to move up from financial planning officer to manager and perhaps another two years to become a relationship manager.
Each member of staff has an individual development plan designed according to their strengths, weaknesses, interests and career aspirations
The bank hires both recent graduates and more experienced candidates. All applicants are expected to have a degree and an interest in the financial markets. They should also be energetic, have a positive attitude, and be interested in dealing with people. To fit into the bank's culture, as a recent slogan spells out "One Bank, One Team, One Heartbeat", it is important to be a team player and customer-orientated.
"Teamwork is essential in consumer banking," says Ms Ng. "We see our wealth management professionals not as salespeople, but as a customer service team whose duty is to provide solutions that satisfy customer needs. We are committed to developing long-term partnerships with our customers and therefore require a very high standard of integrity from our people."
DBS's in-house development programme includes a comprehensive curriculum of classroom training. It covers the basics of banking and finance, wealth management products and operation procedures. It also goes into systems, customer service and sales skills. Trainees then have hands-on job attachments during which they can practise what they have learnt under the guidance of a coach.
Ms Ng points out that the programme has been made more intensive and shortened from six months to three. This was done in response to feedback from trainees and the needs of the market. "It allows recruits to use their new skills earlier than before and to learn more from being in real-life situations," Ms Ng explains. She adds that, besides offering a comprehensive structured training programme, the bank also supports continuous professional development for all of their employees.
"As part of the performance review, each member of staff has an individual development plan designed according to their strengths, weaknesses, interests and career aspirations," Ms Ng says. The plan may involve extra classroom training, job rotations, or having the opportunity to take part in challenging projects. Staff are also encouraged to take external courses and gain further professional qualifications. "We pay the course fees and grant examination leave as well," notes Ms Ng.
As the bank expands, it will continue to create a significant number of new positions every year. This means people can work in wealth management or consumer banking in any one of the 59 local branches or potentially shift into other areas such as private banking or enterprise banking. The bank's strong position in Asia also makes any job opportunities more appealing to high-calibre candidates. In due course, Hong Kong-based employees may also have the chance to work in mainland branches.
Understanding the importance of a work-life balance, DBS Bank says it is committed to creating a good work environment. "Even before the government promoted the five-day week, we implemented it in January this year and extended the scheme to our branches in September," Ms Ng says. To take account of the interests of both employees and customers, the bank will open five and a half days a week and stay open an hour longer each day, rather than offering a seven-day service.