As financial planning services expand exponentially to meet the growing wealth of individuals, ensuring the quality of the products and services and the professionalism of the people in the industry is crucial.
Citibank uses both systematic methods and extensive personal care to guarantee customers get the plans that are most appropriate for their needs, taking into account their current situations and hopes for the future.
"Nowadays, people are knowledgeable in all kinds of investments but most of them are too busy to look into the details. Therefore, they need an efficient system to find out the most appropriate strategies," says Heather Wong, Citigold relationship manager at the Causeway Bay branch of Citibank Global Consumer Group; and a finalist in this year's Hong Kong Institute of Bankers' Outstanding Financial Planner Awards.
With Citigold's unique system, Citigold Wealth Planner (CWP), Citigold relationship managers can understand a customer's risk profile and financial goals in, for example, investment and savings, through some comprehensive questions devised by the bank's professional team.
Depending on the customers' personal profiles, CWP generates an overall analysis to consolidate data reflecting their existing financial status, such as assets, liabilities, insurance and debts. It also calculates the yearly changes of net assets and amount necessary for achieving customers' financial goals.
Citigold relationship managers then tailor an all-inclusive plan for the customer and recommend suitable products, which match the expected annual investment return rate and protection coverage the individual requires. "CWP is a great help for us and the customers. In just five minutes, we can obtain a preliminary assessment of the customers' financial portfolio, and most of them are willing to spend more time to get a clearer picture," Ms Wong notes.
As people's financial situations vary at different stages of their lives, Ms Wong says it is important to learn about her customers' expectations so she can suggest feasible ways to meet them. "For instance, I would ask a 30-year-old male customer if he plans to have any children in the near future as this is an essential factor in deriving his financial needs. For a 50-year-old customer, I would try to find out the quality of lifestyle he or she expects to maintain after retirement before I input the relevant information into the CWP," she explains.
Relating financial goals and life stages to investment plans can help customers identify all their desires and capabilities. "Therefore, we talk with the customers to achieve mutual understanding before formulating the most suitable financial solutions for them," Ms Wong adds.
Backing up the Citigold relationship managers is a specialist team providing services in a broad areas and searching for the best financial plans for all categories of customers. In-house investment and treasury portfolio consultants, who review the latest financial news and explain in-depth market analyses from the bank's research team, offer advice to customers on long-term investment strategies. When the wealth protection service is required in a customer's portfolio, insurance consultants are also available. Likewise, mortgage specialists and stock dealers can be called upon for seamless transactions.
For business account holders, a full range of financial products and services can be enjoyed regardless of company size. A designated CitiBusiness team takes care of special needs from cash management and business insurance to investment and business financing.
"Since Citibank can cater for all these different needs under the same roof, I can perform my duty smoothly and holistically. For example, I can offer a personalised plan for a 50-year-old customer including an investment scheme with current and projected incomes, expenses, protection after retirement, and the passing arrangement for assets left behind," Ms Wong remarks.
"But our service doesn't stop there. We keep track of our customers' portfolios to review alterations from time to time and suggest corresponding adjustments. Rather than selling financial products, we are trying to give our customers something they truly need," she emphasises.
To maintain continuous communication with clients, the bank sends out monthly statements and quarterly portfolio reviews clarifying financial status. Moreover, Citigold relationship managers initiate phone calls or personal contact with clients on a regular basis.
Ms Wong believes that besides the technical support and professional assistance from the bank, it is the heart of every Citigold relationship manager that makes the difference. "We are meticulous in handling every single customer because it is a vital part of professionalism. I always listen to my customers to figure out what I can do for them and how I can best serve them," she says.
Ms Wong was pleased to hear from many of her clients who expressed their support for her during the HKIB Outstanding Financial Planner Awards. "It shows me that I have already won the friendship and confidence of my customers, which are the most valuable elements in my career."