Since the emergence of the financial planning industry, a plethora of investment, insurance and banking products have been developed to attract well-to-do clients, and wealth management has become a mainstream service.
"In the past, wealth management was a way for more affluent individuals to increase their assets. Now, it has evolved into a range of consumer banking products that benefit many people," notes Sunny Cheung, managing director and head of consumer banking (Greater China), DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Limited.
Products available today include practically every service imaginable and investment tools are at clients' fingertips.
"We must go beyond traditional banking and financial services to meet our customers' needs," Mr Cheung points out. "Wealth management includes many categories of products and services and we are continuously enriching our portfolio."
He adds that the latest trend is to explore opportunities by dividing large investment units to cater for many individual investors. "We are also breaking geographic barriers by making overseas investments — whether they are in Russia, Vietnam or Eastern Europe — accessible to local customers. In addition, investors can choose from an array of funds, investing in markets ranging from equities, bonds, currencies, derivatives and so on."
Apart from benefiting from global investment opportunities, DBS customers also gain from the bank's partnership with investment research authority Standard & Poor's, which has the world's largest fund database with performance data on over 80,000 investment funds worldwide.
"By combining the professional, independent and objective analyses from Standard & Poor's with those from our own in-house experts, we provide DBS customers with comprehensive and concise opinions for their wealth building activities," Mr Cheung stresses.
Using a multi-media approach, up-to-date advice and important information on wealth management services are dispatched to all DBS workstations on a daily basis, after being centralised in the bank's smart system. Wealth management team members can download relevant files before delivering investment services to customers.
The application of technology is not limited to the workplace. DBS offers telephone and Internet banking, and has launched an innovative 3G mobile phone banking service.
"Although the Internet is widely used nowadays, logging on to it is still limited by timing and location constraints. With the rapid growth of 3G phone usage, the new service, which eliminates access problems, will become another way to manage one's financial portfolio," Mr Cheung predicts. "Full banking services will inevitably be offered around the clock as global markets rotate basically 24 hours a day."
There is a great demand for wealth management professionals in the growing local and regional markets and this will continue in the foreseeable future, Mr Cheung believes.
He explains that while Hong Kong has the biggest pool of qualified wealth management staff in the region, professionals are moving into the mainland market to set up new branches and systems. "When the massive China market opens up further, career opportunities will be tremendous and Hong Kong professionals will certainly be attracted to the positions opening up," he remarks.
Mr Cheung advises candidates interested in the field to prepare themselves by getting the right qualifications, which are required to maintain standards in the industry. "To pursue a career in wealth management, professional courses such as the CFMP offered by the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers are important to attain the required certification. Dedication is key — it entails hard work and study at the same time," he says.
In conjunction with the HKIB, DBS offers its staff tailor-made CFMP courses, with class schedules and venues designed to fit in with employees' work days without compromising content or quality.
"Communication skills and frontline experience are also important," Mr Cheung notes, saying that since financial planners must help their clients to make important choices, they need more than information to do their job well. It is essential that they learn continuously to accumulate knowledge and gain confidence.
In conclusion, Mr Cheung notes, "Despite the hard work, many professionals in the field are well rewarded financially and enjoy job satisfaction as they grow with the business."