managing director and regional market manager Hong Kong
UBS Wealth Management
Photo: Edde Ngan
Service personalisation in wealth management forges long-term client relations
Hong Kong is well positioned to benefit from the growing regional demand for financial services, but with tighter regulations and greater customer expectations, key players in the wider banking and finance arena have come to realise that offering appropriate products alone can no longer satisfy the financial aspirations of the increasing number of affluent clients.
"Financial institutions that seek ways to expand their wealth management business need to bear in mind the priority for clients is to be able to put their trust in their advisers," says Amy Lo, managing director and regional market manager, Hong Kong, UBS Wealth Management.
Considering the intense competition in the sector, it is important for wealth management practitioners to maintain a strong market focus and cultivate in-depth expertise to help them build ongoing relations with their customers, Ms Lo adds.
"Instead of selling products off the shelf, financial advisers should listen carefully to their clients in order to gain a thorough understanding of their needs and then choose products and tailor services according to their appetite for risk and financial aspirations," Ms Lo emphasises.
Clients these days have access to a myriad of choices and can afford to shop around. The challenge for wealth managers, therefore, is to demonstrate an outstanding level of integrity and a passion for their profession, along with excellent industry knowledge and great communication skills. "Wealth managers that are as committed to growing their clients' portfolios as they would have been to their own assets can always impress and gain trust from the clients," she adds.
A leading player in the regional wealth management sector, UBS, which has had a presence in Hong Kong since 1964, offers financial advice to high net worth and ultra high net worth private banking clients. The bank is particularly committed to talent development. In addition to ongoing training, the bank also runs an internal assessment certification scheme for frontline staff, covering technical knowledge such as wealth planning and asset management as well as soft skills such as advisory and sales techniques.
"Our objectives are to ensure the highest level of professionalism and to protect our clients' best interests," stresses Ms Lo. Advisers are also motivated to obtain professional qualifications such as the Certified Financial Management PlannerTM (CFMPTM) accreditation offered by the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB).
"Wealth management is a people oriented business and experienced professionals that deliver top-quality service are therefore highly sought after," Ms Lo stresses, adding that industry growth has created a shortage of quality people in the field.
To address this challenge, UBS has launched a one-year associate programme to develop its own talent. The bank handpicks a maximum of 50 budding professionals every year to undergo intensive classroom and on-the-job training. "Top performers will be placed on an ongoing development path and continue to grow with us," Ms Lo reveals.
She notes that the HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards also plays a key role in setting industry benchmarks and that practitioners in the industry can take the opportunity to share and exchange best practice with each other.
Now in its fifth year, the competition organisers this year introduced a new category, specifically focusing on high net worth customers. "We hope that this component will inspire private bankers to a higher level of enthusiasm, and over the long term serve to boost Hong Kong's status as a wealth management hub," says Ms Lo, a member of this year's adjudicating panel.
The recent global economic crisis clearly illustrated the importance of risk management and asset allocation, according to Ms Lo. "UBS' competitive advantage lies in the fact that wealth management is a core business for us, and is supported by the group's one-bank model that leverages the strengths and expertise of all our business units."
In addition to offering comprehensive product and service portfolios, the bank also takes pride in its market and industry specialisation. "Our advisers can ride on the support, insights and expertise of our dedicated country teams," Ms Lo explains.
Most of the bank's affluent clients in the region are entrepreneurs, whose personal and company assets are closely tied together. "The scale of our wealth management business allows us to assist our clients in growing their business while ensuring long-term financial protection for their families," she remarks.
The bank also provides an award-winning corporate advisory philanthropy service for wealth management clients, to help them to give back to society. There is a growing need for this type of service as an increasing number of companies and individuals engage with community charity projects that require expert knowledge in effective management and execution, Ms Lo explains. "Again, the size of our global platform stands us in good stead in this," she concludes.
Taken from Career Times 27 August 2010, A8