Effective communication is the basis of the trusting and mutually respectful relationships that are more important now than ever in the topsy-turvy global financial environment.
For HSBC wealth management manager Kyral Wong, this has always been a priority. "Our role gives us great responsibility, so we must aim to serve our customers' best interests and add value to the relationships at all times," Ms Wong notes. "Constant communication certainly helps in this regard."
She adds that a competent wealth manager can help customers paint an overall picture of their financial needs by translating complex investment or wealth management concepts into layman's terms. "We also need to be well-versed in financial issues and able to explain the market dynamics to customers so as to help them to achieve their long-term goals," Ms Wong points out.
Enthusiasm and a genuine care are also part and parcel, she notes. "Customers need to be assured that we understand and will take into consideration their financial aspirations, current concerns and future lifestyle needs," Ms Wong says. "There is more to a financial planning process than simply choosing an investment or savings plan."
This service-oriented mindset has earned Ms Wong a place in the final stage of this year's Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards.
"Participating in the competition has confirmed my belief in the importance of building trusting customer relationships," Ms Wong emphasises. "The training and support from my supervisors and colleagues have also reinforced my faith and principles."
Dealing with people from diverse backgrounds and with various levels of investment knowledge takes skills and a true passion, Ms Wong notes. "Consider yourself a friend of your customers," she advises. "Stay approachable and do not fill the conversation with empty rhetoric and industry jargons. While seeking to understand your customers, make sure that your customers can understand you."
Ms Wong talks to potential customers or first-time investors about a range of matters, including family, government policy, children, housing and even holiday plans. "Some of these may sound irrelevant to wealth management. But, to understand a customer, we need to also learn about the things that their lives revolve around," she says.
A friendly approach does help to close the distance between customers and wealth managers but a high level of technical skills is indispensable. "Being able to demonstrate our expertise gives us respect and credibility," Ms Wong points out. "First-class analytical skills are particularly essential."
After gathering information on customers' risk tolerance, lifestyle, investments and preferences, Ms Wong performs detailed analyses that help to identify other elements in reaching customers' specific financial goals. With help from the bank's wealth management tool "WealthMaster" and comprehensive in-house market research, Ms Wong maps out customers' life goals and recommends a set of financial strategies.
"Wealth managers should look to putting themselves in a position where they can discover and then present to customers any hidden financial needs or hindrances to achieving their goals," she says. "Customers entrust us with their financial futures, so we must encourage them to voice their concerns and make certain that they have a clear and full picture of their financial plans."
She makes use of a structured risk attitude test to assess customers' risk appetite, which is followed by a detailed analysis. "The objective is to establish a mutual understanding of the risks in different financial scenarios," Ms Wong says.
Professional credibility cannot be developed overnight. Ms Wong believes that organic growth through word of mouth is the most powerful way to gain trust and respect. She says, "A wealth management process can be lengthy and it requires a lot of input from the customer. It's important that wealth managers can leverage off their expertise and experience to help ease the oftentimes unnecessary anxieties. A satisfied customer is the best advertisement."
She recalls several occasions where customers approached her for help with other banking services. "I was able to help by putting them in touch with the relevant departments," she says. Such small gestures go a long way and add value to the customers' overall banking experience. She remarks, "Requests for assistance are a sign of trust, giving the bank, my colleagues and me the opportunity to strengthen our relationships with customers."
- Translate wealth management concepts into layman's terms
- Serve customers' best interests and add value to customer relationships
- Demonstrate expertise and analytical skills
- Identify hidden needs or hindrances to achieving customers' financial goals