Money Moves

Join the race

by Ada Ng

Independent financial adviser innovates to capture new opportunities

Dennis Wong
managing director
Channel 8 Wealth Management Ltd
Photo: Nolly Leung

While many companies these days focus on manpower and budget squeeze to cope with the economic bite, some are deploying innovative technology tools and reviewing company structure to prepare for the upturn.

That is the case of Channel 8 Wealth Management Ltd, a growing independent financial adviser (IFA) that is seeing the economic downturn as a good time to reposition and develop new strategies.

Dennis Wong, managing director of Channel 8, notes the world economy is cyclical. "Recession is always followed by a rapid economic pick-up and subsequent expansion," he says. "Financial advisers who experienced the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2000 dot-com bubble burst envisioned the next wave of growth and helped their clients to navigate those turbulent times."

With such insights, the company spares no effort to lay the groundwork for new business. "When the economy turns around, we will be in the ideal position to capitalise on the upswing," Mr Wong stresses. "At the same time, we're exploring new ways to help clients to preserve their wealth during periods of high volatility."

Innovative moves

Part of Channel 8's repositioning strategy is to roll out an innovative web-based portal that combines portfolio management, financial planning, trading and customer service on one sophisticated platform. This will be the industry's first integrated web-based operation system in Hong Kong, according to Mr Wong.

"While clients these days tend to buy stand-alone investment products such as insurance, saving plans, pension, stocks and other investment portfolios from various financial institutions, our web-based system will integrate the database from different financial institutions to provide a single statement, projecting a full investment picture to our clients," Mr Wong says.

More importantly, the unprecedented level of technology integration will enable financial advisers to identify any gaps and maximise long-term returns for clients.

Mr Wong remarks that the company will also help its clients to obtain a comprehensive overview of their assets that are currently under management on the integrative database.

"Unlike banking institutions, IFAs don't carry own-label financial products. We remain objective all the way and can therefore analyse the clients' entire investment portfolio and choose financial tools in the market that match the clients' goals and risk tolerance levels," he adds.

In view of the economic climate, the company has also designed a set of innovative and matching services. "Services that focus on preserving wealth in times of economic downturn and financial tools offering unemployment protection have been launched recently," he says.

Aside from the innovative technology platform, Mr Wong says the company will apply creativity in its marketing strategies. "While many companies are cutting back on staff and marketing budgets, we'll be kicking off a series of marketing campaigns in the coming months to grow new businesses," he explains.

One of these marketing campaigns is a loyalty membership programme. "Our membership programme aims to enhance investors' lifestyle because wealth management is a habit and a lifestyle choice," he says." For instance, a variety of discounts and membership privileges such as in golfing and skincare services will be on offer."

Key assets

To cope with the expansion plan, Channel 8 is planning to increase its workforce from 50 to 100 by end of this year.

While most new talent will be front-line financial advisers, some will be taking the supportive role in marketing and back office work.

"With the financial meltdown in the banking industry, we'll capitalise on finding experienced talent in the field," Mr Wong adds.

While banking experience is preferable, Hugo Wong, Channel 8's vice president, says the company also considers university graduates with two years of experience to join their consultancy team.

"Training is critical in building a professional wealth management team, and there are many successful industry professionals who entered the field without any background in finance," Mr Hugo Wong says.

The company runs a comprehensive induction programme to ensure new joiners acquire industry and product knowledge, as well as the soft skills necessary for success.

"One of the determinants of success in this field is being able to handle rejections," notes Steven Kee, senior vice president, consultancy development, Channel 8. Counselling sessions offering advice and skills in dealing with emotions at work are also a key training feature, according to Mr Kee. The company's training schedule also includes client servicing skills and Mandarin lessons.

Foreseeing opportunities and growth, the company conducts management training programmes to prepare senior staff for leadership roles in the company. This essentially gives the aspiring individuals something to look forward to, Mr Wong adds.

Idea platform

  • Integrated IT portal explores business potential
  • Innovative service portfolio a competitive edge
  • New joiners immersed in learning culture
  • Management training provides prospects

Taken from Career Times 17 April 2009, p. A2
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