Money Moves

Mutual trust the basis for thriving finance business

by Christina Tai

Steven Lee, CEO, Konew Financial Express
Photo: Johnny Kwok

Some banks and finance companies make a point of promoting their loan services, but then put the customer through quite an ordeal during the application and approval process. Others recognise that good customer service should be a priority and that long-term business success depends on having a professional approach which also builds a sense of mutual trust.

"Above all, customers should feel that we show them genuine care and respect," says Steven Lee, CEO of Konew Financial Express. The starting point is to have premises designed to convey a friendly, warm and open impression, with areas set aside where clients can discuss their financial needs in comfort and privacy. After that, what counts most is speed and efficiency in handling individual requests.

"Getting a loan within 24 hours versus three to four weeks makes a big difference, especially for SMEs which may need to make important decisions of their own within just a few days," says Mr Lee. He notes that banks can take several weeks to approve a loan, scrutinising every detail on the application and often appearing intent on finding reasons to issue a rejection. People who fall outside the standard parameters by, for example, being self-employed or not owning property can run into particular difficulties.

Konew, though, prefers to view each case on its merits and not simply to follow the rulebook. The company believes the best approach to business is to deal with customer needs flexibly and to maintain reasonable fees and charges. Mr Lee says it comes down to making courtesy and capability two core values and using the so-called SMART concept when recruiting new staff. As an acronym, this means having skills and knowledge to do the job well; manners to deal politely with customers; an appearance which makes a good first impression and helps to build trust; reliability and conscientiousness; and a team-orientated and proactive attitude.

The firm's incentives are not commission-based but use a balanced scorecard system to review overall performance. This emphasises the importance of teamwork, efficient allocation of responsibilities, and effective problem solving during day-to-day work.

Mr Lee has acted as a mentor for numerous university students and points out to them that the biggest enterprises don't necessarily offer the best career opportunities or real job satisfaction. Progress can easily stall after the first few years and individual roles can become very narrow. On the other hand, medium-sized companies can offer talented staff many competitive advantages, brighter prospects, and better chances for merit-based advancement. "Think carefully about what companies really offer and look for those which best match your career aspirations," he advises.

Taken from Career Times 01 December 2006, p. A2
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