Financial Planning / Wealth Management

High-touch business

by Isabella Lee

Felix Lau, senior vice president & head of sales and distribution
retail banking
CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

Sophisticated wealth management systems ensure the best performing portfolios for investors

Good financial solutions depend on a number of deciding factors.

First and foremost, investors should appoint professional financial planners who are enabled to apply effective business methodology with sound market analytical tools, emphasises Felix Lau, senior vice president and head of sales and distribution, retail banking, CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited. This way, they are in the best position to achieve their financial goals in the most effective ways possible.

CITIC Ka Wah is well aware of the importance of these issues and offers its high-net-worth clients a bespoke CITICfirst Wealth Management service, which incorporates all the factors needed to address customers' financial needs and goals.

The bank provides its CITICfirst customers with personalised financial services. Clients are assigned CITICfirst relationship managers, who are highly experienced wealth management experts.

Client focus Service quality is a priority for CITIC Ka Wah. The bank offers its CITICfirst relationship managers a range of learning opportunities to polish their technical and soft skills. Newly joined relationship managers undergo 18 days of comprehensive training during which they are introduced to the bank's core values and equipped with the necessary product knowledge, compliance requirement and helpful techniques especially for interpersonal communication.

"The primary role of our relationship managers is to help customers determine their financial status and identify their financial goals, before proposing suitable products," Mr Lau states. "It is important for our staff to have well-developed communication skills in order to facilitate the whole process. They also need to understand that our business depends on establishing trusting and long-term relationships with our clients."

CITICfirst relationship managers keep in regular touch with their clients to offer tailor-made financial solutions that are timely and relevant. In particular, wealth managers contact new customers seven days after they first joined CITICfirst to remind them of the bank's services and ensure a thorough understanding of their portfolios. The next contact is typically at one-month, two-month and five-month periods, followed by a portfolio review and update every six months to keep track of clients' investment performance and assess or rebalance asset allocations.

To complement this high quality of service, CITICfirst features a specialised programme that monitors periodic interaction with customers. Among other aspects, it ensures that relationship managers possess the insight into their clients' needs and that they keep abreast of the changing financial needs at different stages of their lives.

"In addition to regular contact, our relationship managers also approach customers at specific times, for example during major changes in the market. We believe in initiating contact and providing information promptly and proactively, rather than simply responding to customer queries," Mr Lau notes. For fast access to accurate information, a unique "Wealth Tracker" function in the bank's wealth management system enables CITICfirst relationship managers to keep track and update customers' portfolio performance at a glance.

Industry force CITIC Ka Wah enthusiastically supports the annual HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards and encourages its employees to participate in this high-profile industry competition.

Mr Lau believes that the competition not only promote a better understanding of wealth management among the general public, but it also drives professionalism within the financial planning industry in general.

"We have been taking part in the competition since it was first launched three years ago," Mr Lau says. "The success of our initial participants definitely served as a motivating factor for other employees. Most importantly, the different rounds of the competition provide a steep learning curve for young professionals."

One of the competition requirements is that participants must report on an actual case they have worked on to illustrate their industry knowledge and understanding. This helps all participants to emerge from the experience with deeper insight into their field.

"The judging panel interview provides an excellent opportunity for financial planners wanting to polish their presentation skills. It is an invaluable experience," Mr Lau concludes.


Taken from Career Times 26 September 2008, p. A5
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