Money Moves

Leading IFA prepares for the boom

by Grace Chan

Jimmy Lee, associate director, corporate development
Centaline Wealth Management Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan
Opportunities abound for aspirants with or without a financial background

Investment appetite is picking up in Hong Kong and on the mainland, leading to an increased demand for financial advisory services.

Gearing up for the market recovery, Centaline Wealth Management Limited (CWML), an independent financial adviser (IFA) established in 2003 and a member of the Centaline Group, is pulling out all stops to enhance in-house training and provide comprehensive support to its team of professional financial advisers.

The company dedicates considerable resources to staff training and development, ensuring that its financial advisers follow compliance guidelines and regulations. In particular, they are required to follow a four-step financial planning procedure.

"We currently employ about 200 advisers. We expect them to gain a full understanding of their customers' financial needs and goals, and to do a professional risk appetite assessment, before they draw up an appropriate financial plan and recommend suitable products. The final step is conducting regular reviews," says Jimmy Lee, associate director, corporate development, CWML.

"We have in place a number of training programmes to boost the knowledge of both new recruits and experienced staff, and to hone their soft skills such as communication and selling techniques," Mr Lee notes.

CWML is also launching an in-house financial training institute. "We encourage our financial advisers to obtain higher professional qualifications such as the CFPCM (Certified Financial Planner) and CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designations," he says.
Since the company opened its Guangzhou office in 2008, there is a growing focus on forging closer relationships with mainland customers through regular seminars and workshops. "In order to better serve our expanding mainland customer base, we also run a series of special programmes to helping our advisers to polish their Mandarin skills," Mr Lee adds.

Customer focus

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, sophisticated wealth management products such as equity and commodity derivatives have multiplied. Customers are therefore more dependent on professional advice, Mr Lee believes.

"Unlike banks and insurance companies that are trying to sell their own products off the shelf, our financial advisers provide more independent, objective advice. They also have a wider range of products at their fingertips and can choose those that best suit their customers' needs and investment goals," Mr Lee says.

In fact, CWML offers its clientele an extensive portfolio of top-of-the-range products and services from a number of different financial institutions. These include mutual funds, securities investment, insurance plans as well as other asset protection products.

As financial products become more sophisticated, financial planners' product knowledge is increasingly tested. "Our advisers are supported by a dedicated in-house research team. They receive daily market updates via email and text messaging. This enables them to provide their customers with the latest investment analysis," says Mr Lee.

The CWML research and development department attends product launches and briefings regularly. They also analyse the latest product information from various reliable sources and then channel it to the frontline team.

Solid platform
We emphasise compliance, integrity and professional ethics when recruiting

As the outlook becomes more positive for the wealth management industry, banks and other finance houses in Hong Kong are competing for quality talent and Mr Lee advises candidates interested in a career in the field to seek out employers that are capable of offering them a solid business platform.

Prospective recruits are not required to have a banking or finance background, he notes, since they can acquire the necessary professional knowledge and skills through ongoing learning.

According to Mr Lee, the key to career success in the fast-changing field is to build strong, long-term relationships with customers, since wealth management is a life-long process.

"We emphasise compliance, integrity and professional ethics when recruiting. These elements are more important than relevant work experience," he remarks.

Over the years, the Centaline brand has developed into a trusted household name both in Hong Kong and mainland China. Leveraging off its rising brand equity, the group now focuses its sights on further penetrating the vast mainland market.

"Our brand gives us an unparalleled market edge," Mr Lee stresses. "Riding on this, our advisers can travel across the border and meet their customers. This level of flexibility and mobility is second to none in the wealth management industry and essentially closes the distance between us and our customers, putting our advisers in an ideal position to capitalise on any significant opportunities that may arise."

Competitive edge

  • Training programmes and support ensure high level of professionalism
  • Company keen to attract quality talent from other industries
  • Attractive compensation packages for the right candidates
  • Household brand a business advantage

Taken from Career Times 11 December 2009, p. A12

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