Money Moves

Gold rush

by Tammy Chan

Favourable environment for growing financial players

Jeff Wong, executive director
China Gold Asia Ltd
Photo: Nolly Leung

Early 2008 has seen a weak US dollar and poor equity market performance coupled with record high prices for gold. By mid-March gold topped US$1,000 an ounce so many investors are now turning to the bullion market. This gold rush has spurred both market growth and subsequent demand for skilled employees to join the expanding bullion market.

Foreseeing continuous buoyancy in the gold market over the next few years, China Gold Asia Ltd is set to increase its business scope further to foreign exchange and futures. Jeff Wong, the company's executive director took up the responsibility of corporate reorganisation last year in addition to expanding the bullion trading team.

China Gold's frontline staff headcount has now grown to 60 people, with a healthy blend of veterans and fresh graduates in the bullion industry. Mr Wong explains, "In this particular field we are more interested in diligence than formal qualifications."

All new staff at China Gold undergo an intensive five-day training programme providing a preliminary understanding of the entire market, which equips staff with an overview of the financial markets as well as basic knowledge of different products available ranging from foreign exchange to precious metals.

"We construct the bridge between academia and the professional world and facilitate the step from conceptual to concrete for our people," says Mr Wong. "Soft skills training, in particular effective telephone communications, is in place for every member of our staff, regardless of previous academic achievement."

Touching base

On top of the induction training, frontline staff have meetings lasting 30 minutes twice a day. In the morning, the team reviews the news or recent issues in the foreign markets as well as overall market trends. At 6pm, staff take stock of the day in a sharing session which consolidates team experiences. "When a colleague secures a new client or profits from a good deal, we share this in the meeting to improve team knowledge and skills," Mr Wong notes. Other initiatives such as motivation, role-play and teambuilding feature in the evening training sessions to broaden industrial expertise.

China Gold is expanding its teams in two areas. Employees with a typical educational background are hired in junior positions as financial consultants. Much of their time is dedicated to fundamental work such as phone communications and handling accounts of smaller asset value.

Fresh university graduates are normally offered the post of management trainee. They must learn all junior staff duties, but may benefit from faster promotion than their junior counterparts, Mr Wong explains.

At managerial level, employees are responsible for the more affluent account holders. Leveraging on a better understanding of the client mindset to increase overall transaction volume, managerial staff also assist junior staff. Beyond this echelon is the possibility for promotion to financial manager, senior financial manager and then assistant vice president.

True reflections

"This job is not glamorous all the time and definitely not as laid back as many movies would have us believe. We receive phone calls from clients for transactions of several millions dollars, but prior to that call there may be over a year's effort, so our financiers must be passionate about their work," Mr Wong emphasises.

Beginning his career as an investment consultant, Mr Wong learnt to listen to his superiors and follow instructions diligently early on.

China Gold reviews staff performance twice a year and employees who reach the promotion benchmark are given higher allowances and commission. Also, a number of different incentives such as cash bonuses, monthly incentives and ad hoc incentives are also awarded once an employee hits a specific target.

Other benefits include examination leave and educational subsidies to support staff preparing for the company's expanding service scope to foreign exchange, futures and securities. "We want the public to perceive us as a powerful engine with a professional image," concludes Mr Wong.

Expanding scope

  • Future gold industry looking solid
  • Plans in the pipeline to diversify services
  • Diligence valued over academic achievement
  • Comprehensive training equips new staff with vital knowledge

Taken from Career Times 28 March 2008, p. A10
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