In the wealth management sector, career success depends on certain prerequisites. These include integrity, dedication to continuous learning, excellent communication skills, and the ability to understand customer needs. Anyone without this combination of attributes cannot reasonably expect to build a strong client base and, therefore, is unlikely to make it in the industry.
"As wealth management services become increasingly sophisticated, it is important to set the highest standards of professionalism," says Maisie Lam, director of human resources, global consumer group, Citibank (Hong Kong) Limited.
The wealth manager's role entails keeping in close touch with new products, changes and developments in the economy, and competitor activities. With this information, it is possible to update customers on the latest investment opportunities and provide detailed advice on options to rebalance a growing portfolio and generate the best returns.
Citibank's own team consists of specialists in four areas: relationship building, support services, financial consultation, and sales management. Between them, they aim to meet the full range of customer needs, helping customers fulfil their short, medium and long-term financial goals.
We aim high and seek to distinguish ourselves by hiring like-minded individuals
"As the world's leading financial services company and a responsible corporate citizen, we are fully committed to financial education in all its forms," says Ms Lam. As an example, she cites the four-month HKU-Citibank University banking course — an intensive programme that gives students an excellent introduction to the industry.
Students learn about treasury operations, consumer finance, card business, and risk management, getting unique insights from experienced speakers into the world of banking along the way. Previous participants who topped the class have been rewarded with a visit to the bank's US headquarters in New York.
Ms Lam hopes that the next step will be for local universities to add financial planning as a curriculum option. She says that the initial feedback has been encouraging and that this would definitely help the development of the industry.
Noting that Citibank was one of the first organisations to introduce the concept of wealth management in Hong Kong, Ms Lam says the basic objective has not changed. It is still to offer quality services and help customer protect and increase their assets. "We aim high and seek to distinguish ourselves by hiring like-minded individuals who want to keep learning," she explains. "In this respect, we are regarded as the Shaolin Temple of the banking industry."
This outlook, together with attractive remuneration packages and benefits, has helped in attracting talented recruits and retaining more experienced staff. Ms Lam highlights other contributory factors, which include excellent research on market movements and new products, a recognised brand name, annual surveys to collect employee feedback, and policies to encourage a work-life balance and community service.
When it comes to succession planning, the bank's first choice is to promote from within. This has proven so successful that over 70 per cent of the positions created by expansion and development have been filled in this way. Line managers are expected to support staff development, even if it means transferring an outstanding employee to another department.
This, though, is seen as the best way of creating a stronger workforce and, in fact, the current directors of sales and distribution and of cards business moved up from previous positions in the IT and finance sections respectively.