With the surge of interest in wealth management in the last few years, financial institutions have been kept busy modifying their business strategies and managing the expansion of their range of products and their workforces. This looks set to continue with the government's financial policies, such as the proposed waiver of estate tax, now recognising that wealth management services will be important for the city's future economic development.
According to Quincy Wong, chief executive officer of Convoy Financial Services Ltd, the sector should help Hong Kong maintain its status as Asia's financial centre. Local banks and financial institutions already have a position of influence within the region and can benefit further from their close links with the mainland. "Wealth management is still an under-developed area in most mainland cities, so there will be great demand for financial services provided by institutions in Hong Kong," Mr Wong says.
He explains that greater awareness of the advantages of professional financial planning had resulted from the economic crisis of the late 1990s and the advent of the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF). These factors respectively forced people to acknowledge the importance of wealth protection and provided a mechanism for long-term savings. MPF providers and other financial companies saw the opportunity to offer a comprehensive range of investment options and, to a certain extent, the concept of wealth management for local consumers had arrived.
Although banks and insurance companies have been conducting regular recruitment drives, many newcomers entering the industry have preferred to join independent financial advisers (IFAs), which now play a crucial role in the sector. "IFAs offer a variety of products from different financial institutions around the world and these are tailored to meet individual client needs," Mr Wong notes.
As one of Hong Kong's leading IFAs, Convoy is particularly proud of its strong research and support services, and its professional team of consultants. Mr Wong says the company is highly selective in its product portfolio to ensure clients can choose from the most suitable options currently available. The customer service team is dedicated to providing the highest standards and is backed by an extensive IT network. Substantial investments are made in training and marketing, all of which makes it easier for consultants to focus on building the business
"The rise of IFAs in Hong Kong has coincided with stricter regulation of the industry, so we have now hired in-house lawyers to oversee the legality of all products and practices," Mr Wong says. As competition and the volume of business intensify, the relevant authorities are keen to ensure all practitioners observe the regulations governing the sector and that there is a fair business environment.
Differentiating IFAs from other financial institutions is central to Convoy's business expansion plans. "The competition from established banks is a challenge, but IFAs are working to distinguish themselves with their independent advisory services,"
Mr Wong adds.
In the foreseeable future, the company aims to explore new markets in Asia and, in this way, establish itself as a pioneer in the field. "Wealth management is a relatively new concept in the region, and it will take real effort to promote the industry," he concludes. "At Convoy, we believe we have a good foundation for expansion and are looking forward to embracing new opportunities in Asia."