Financial Planning / Wealth Management

No limits to career potential

By Mabel Sieh

Amy Choi, director of sales and distribution, Citibank Global Consumer Group

Exciting career prospects are on offer in the financial planning industry

Some organisations really mean what they say when they talk about career development and allowing staff to make the most of their potential. Fortunately for Amy Choi, director of sales and distribution for Citibank Global Consumer Group, her employer is one of them and, over the last 11 years, has given her the opportunity to excel in a number of different areas.

"The sky is the limit. It's up to you how high you want to reach," says Ms Choi, summarising her professional experience so far. She originally started out in the computer department but soon developed an interest in other aspects of the bank's business and willingly accepted offers to transfer between departments in the following few years. This led step by step to her appointment as a branch manager and subsequently to her current position as a director. Throughout, the company was prepared to present her with new challenges and had confidence in her ability to meet them.

"As long as you can prove yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve," she says. Her current task is to demonstrate just that in the field of sales and relationship management. In this role, she believes that, if there is one key to success, it is to value your customers. Not surprisingly, that is also a guiding principle for CitiGold relationship managers (CRM) in their dealings with clients.

Each CRM is regarded as a client's financial partner, taking care of their needs not just for the short term, but for a lifetime. This philosophy is based on the knowledge that every person goes through different stages during their adult life, from first job to marriage, raising a family and retirement. Similar to a family doctor who knows our history and understands our needs, the CRM therefore aims to design a tailor-made portfolio to meet the specific requirements of individual clients.

Relationship managers have unlimited opportunities

Prospective clients

Target clients are those with HK$1 million or above and, according to a recent survey, there are currently 274,000 prospective customers in Hong Kong in this category. These people are generally looking for much better returns on their hard-earned income than can be obtained in the current low interest rate environment. They expect their investments to generate steady growth, but are often too busy with their own jobs to have the time to do the necessary research into what would suit them best.

That is where a CRM can help with a comprehensive three-step process based on profiling, planning for asset allocation and regular portfolio reviews. Depending on the client's stage of life and particular needs, the CRM will understand their financial aims and then, with the help of CitiGold Wealth Planner, assess suitable investments, risk level and the allocation of funds. The resulting investment plan can always be amended and, during regular reviews, necessary adjustments will be made after detailed consultation.

To become a CitiGold relationship manager, a university degree is preferred together with three years' experience in the financial industry in a frontline or sales support position. Fresh graduates begin as CRM associates and, at first, assist in the full range of daily operations in order to gain the necessary experience. However, in overall terms, Ms Choi explains that having the right attitude is as important as having the right qualifications.

Wealth creation "When customers come to us, they are putting their trust in us, so we must respect this and show we are working from the heart." She adds that when clients feel a service is delivered with sincerity, they have more confidence in the way their investments are being handled.

The bank provides CRMs with full support and numerous opportunities. This begins with a two-month training programme and, later, the assistance of a team of product specialists and customer service professionals. New product updates are provided on a regular basis and, in terms of career prospects, a number of routes are possible to senior positions in management or sales. Either option allows for rapid advancement to the same levels within the overall company structure.

The 40 per cent growth in headcount for wealth management this year reflects a need for the expertise of such professionals in Hong Kong. With the expansion of financial planning products and services, and the still largely untapped local market, the demand for new recruits is confidently expected to increase.

Ms Choi sees great potential in the field and believes the future is bright for CRMs. "Our brand is already well established and is strongly backed by ample resources and expertise in 12 countries in Asia, through a network of more than 120 branches around the region" she says. "That is what you need in wealth management. We also believe in education and invest in our people. We respect excellence and ability, and give our staff the freedom and space to soar. They can fly as high as they want."

Valued customers

  • The key to success in financial planning is to value the customer
  • Focus is to plan for anticipated needs at different stages of life
  • Clients are regarded as "financial partners" involved in every decision
  • A three-step process is used to understand clients' needs, plan and review portfolios
  • Graduates and more experienced professionals are being recruited
  • Comprehensive training is given as well as full back-up support
  • The Hong Kong market for financial planning still has great potential

Taken from Career Times 25 February 2005
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