Investor confidence is steadily returning, as reflected by the uptrend in the stock market, and this phenomenon is benefiting the local wealth management sector.
Mason Wu, head of wealth management centre, Wing Lung Bank Ltd, believes the time is ripe for wealth management professionals to rebuild their business amid improving investor sentiment. "The industry now needs quality people who will help reinvigorate activity and bring back investors to this sector," he says.
Wing Lung Bank positions its wealth management unit as a reliable financial partner that offers a full range of investment products, including callable deposits, bonds, currency-linked deposits, equity linked deposits, investment funds services and structured products. The diversified product offering helps clients develop an investment portfolio that will best achieve their investment objectives and preferred level of risk exposure.
To further strengthen its wealth management business in Hong Kong, Wing Lung recently launched a Sunflower wealth management centre, the services and products of which are targeted mainly at clients from China.
Sunflower offers a wide range of services including financial planning, investment and securities trading. The establishment of the centre also marks a milestone for Wing Lung's development following its integration last October into China Merchants Bank (CMB).
Mr Wu says Wing Lung now plans to hire more wealth management professionals as it pursues expansion under CMB. "Attracting quality talent is a long-term challenge in the wealth management industry," he says. "Our wealth management centre currently houses 56 staff. We are now looking for passionate, meticulous, client-oriented and disciplined candidates to beef up our team. We favour candidates with solid industry experience and relevant qualifications."
Wing Lung Bank attaches great importance to a candidate's performance during job interviews. Screening and interviews of candidates are stringent.
"If a particular candidate is invited for interview, it means we already have an interest in that person. Therefore, we expect that candidate to prepare well before coming for the interview," Mr Wu says.
He notes that people interested in becoming wealth management professionals must embrace a positive and client-oriented attitude and, more importantly, show prospective employers a passion for striking a balance between achieving sales goals and clients services with a high level of integrity and dedication. They are also expected to demonstrate integrity in their personal and professional conduct.
"Achieving short-term sales goals will not guarantee long-term success for a wealth manager. Understanding the ethical concepts in wealth management is more important. For instance, a professional needs to know a client's risk tolerance level before presenting investment options," Mr Wu explains.
He adds, "We are our clients' long-term partner and we assist them in building solid and long-term investment portfolios, focused on their unique financial needs and the risk levels that they can tolerate. Ethics, integrity and dedication are crucial components to a successful long-term partnership between wealth managers and customers."
Wing Lung provides new recruits with a three-day orientation to prepare them for a career in wealth management. Supervisors guide newcomers in understanding Wing Lung's corporate culture and its services and products.
Aside from on-the-job training, the bank arranges supplementary programmes, including language courses, for both newcomers and existing staff. This is aimed at enabling everyone to meet stringent company and industry standards.
Mr Wu points out that Wing Lung puts a high premium on its staff's long-term career growth. It appraises work performance regularly to ascertain their expectations and needs. Employees are also guided towards a clear route for career development. For instance, a newly-recruited account executive can work his or her way up to the post of account manager, and eventually, to the post of senior account manager.
Outside Wing Lung, other avenues are available for wealth management practitioners to upgrade the level of their professionalism, says Mr Wu. The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards is one such initiative that rewards excellence in the industry.
Mr Wu, who served as one of the panel judges, says the competition helps wealth management practitioners assess and upgrade their levels of professionalism. He describes the performance of this year's candidates as encouraging. "Most candidates performed very well during the second round presentation. They demonstrated meticulous attention to product details and clients' needs," he explains. "This is particularly important amid the dynamic investment environment in which wealth management service providers are expected to constantly improve the quality of their services and products."