Money Moves

IFA reaching out to the public

by Wing Kei

This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

Atak Yau (left), manager, retail sales; Kenty Wong, manager, corporate communication and business development, Phillip Securities (Hong Kong) Ltd
Photo: Edve Leung

Financial services firms fully realise how important it is not just to offer a comprehensive range of products but also to have the right channels to communicate effectively with existing clients and interested members of the public. This has led companies in the sector to establish more branch outlets and, specifically, has prompted Phillip Securities (Hong Kong) Ltd, an independent financial adviser (IFA), to open an investor centre in Wanchai in November.

The new 2,000 square foot office will be the company's sixth local branch but the first at ground level. This reflects a corporate strategy of wanting to "get to know the public more". As Kenty Wong, manager for corporate communication and business development, explains: "Our target is to steadily increase the number of branches established each year and we are very serious about choosing locations which are accessible to a wider public. This will help our agents to expand their sales network and increase their client base. We want to expand in terms of size, credibility, branding and customer network."

Atak Yau, the company's retail sales manager, adds that IFA firms have traditionally been located in office buildings and built up client networks more by referrals. "Therefore, we want to make sure our sales force has a new channel to make contact with members of the public and understand their investment needs. We think a ground-level investor centre in a busy area will be the easiest way for people to get to know us."

The new branch will offer wealth management services from IFAs plus specialist financial advice. The range of products will include funds, unit trusts, futures and other investment tools. To assist with business development, the company is therefore in the process of recruiting at least 40 sales agents.

"It's a competitive market and only staff with proven ability will be able to sustain the levels of growth we expect," says Mr Wong. "Sometimes, we headhunt high-calibre candidates who know they will be well rewarded if they meet their sales targets."

Mr Yau emphasises that it is a sales-driven industry and that staff remuneration is based on performance. "In a way, agents are growing their own business so they should be capable of self-assessment," he says. Full training is provided by professional IFAs so that new recruits are completely familiar with all the firm's financial products.

Mr Wong notes that sales agents should have an open personality and work proactively because the job requires them to approach people and establish their own customer network. "They also need to be hard-working, responsible and good team players," he adds. "Someone with a good social network has a head start when entering the industry."

Phillip Securities now has about 330 sales agents and, among IFAs, currently offers the most diverse selection of investment products for clients. The company is particularly recognised for its strength in asset management, investor education and investment research.

Taken from Career Times 09 September 2005, p. A2
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