Financial Planning / Wealth Management
Professionalism at work
by Grace Chan
Today's volatile market conditions generate ample opportunity for wealth management managers who in turn ride on a growing range of investment products to guide their clients towards prosperity.
"If the market is trading within a narrow range, investors may not wish to be in it," says William Leung, executive director and head of personal banking, Hang Seng Bank Limited. "Buying and selling opportunities arise as long as the market is moving. Our wealth management managers will respond to customer needs and offer them the best possible recommendations combined with the most suitable products," he explains.
Mr Leung points out that there are various factors affecting the level of investment returns, with interest rates being one. "Given the low interest rate environment, customer demand for wealth management products is strong. While the US Federal Reserve is not ready to raise interest rates in the near term, the Dow Jones index has gradually returned to previous peak levels.
Hong Kong people traditionally opt for investing in the local stock market and so may miss overseas market opportunities, he remarks.
Generally speaking, individual investors have limited capabilities for investing in multiple markets. Instead, according to Mr Leung, they can go for multiple market funds or investment products, which help them, increase their investment exposure and spread their risks.
Wealth management managers at Hang Seng Bank are therefore expected to help their clients grow their wealth through the bank's diversified range of products.
China-related products are among the most sought-after by investors these days. As such, Hang Seng Bank has rolled out a range of renminbi-denominated investment products in addition to its RMB bond fund offerings.
To help customers keep track of market development beyond the constraints of time and location, meanwhile, the bank has launched a first-of-its-kind iPhone application for foreign exchange margin trading and has also upgraded its online service infrastructure.
"We're looking to expand the scope of our mobile banking business to general banking services and investment trading. It is likely that mobile banking will become an important channel in future," Mr Leung predicts.
He adds that transferring assets to the next generation is a key concern for the bank's high net worth customers when it comes to wealth management. "In light of this, we'll continue to strengthen our trust business in a bid to help these customers to grow, preserve and pass on their wealth to their inheritors."
The bank's wealth management managers are obliged to take a needs-based approach when drawing up financial plans for their clients. This means they should first and foremost gain a thorough understanding of their clients' financial status, family set-up and professional situation. This is followed by identifying their financial goals and risk tolerance levels at different life stages.
Most important of all, wealth management managers take the initiative to arrange meetings with clients and review their financial portfolios on a regular basis in response to changing market conditions and the client's varying needs and expectations.
To ensure that all its wealth management managers have immediate access to first-hand market information and are well versed in current market conditions, Hang Seng Bank arranges daily morning briefing sessions. Commentaries on the latest market developments are provided to all branches.
In addition to the professional support from a team of specialists in a number of fields including investment, insurance and foreign exchange, the bank's wealth management managers benefit from a broad spectrum of training covering new product knowledge, compliance issues and customer services.
"Gaining trust from clients and cultivating long-term relationships with them have always been top priorities," says Mr Leung. "Our wealth management managers also take part in a range of training programmes that highlight the importance of integrity, trustworthiness and professional ethics."
The bank has incorporated the Certified Financial Management PlannerTM (CFMPTM) programme accredited by the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) into its own training schedule.
The bank also encourages its top achievers to enrol in the HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards. Last year, one of the bank's elite emerged as grand winner, grabbing also a best presentation award in the event's new Group C category that recognise superior performance in private banking.
Mr Leung confirms that the HKIB Awards have not only enhanced the bank's reputation for its top-notch talent, but have also helped to impress clients with the bank's expertise and professionalism. He states that the bank will continue to support the HKIB Awards as well as the organisation's other activities.
Mr Leung believes wealth management will remain a focus in the personal banking sector, and that high-calibre jobseekers that possess good interpersonal skills and integrity may consider joining the profession. "We watch the market closely for opportunities and take immediate steps based on our clients' needs and their risk appetite, making sure at the same time that our people are well equipped for this," he concludes.
Taken from Career Times 13 May 2011, A7
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