For growingly discerning customers, entrusting their assets with a sound financial manager in Hong Kong is becoming as important as placing their family's health in the hands of a reputable doctor. However, the provision of first-rate financial planning is heavily dependent on individual banking institutions' approach to client service.
At CITIC Ka Wah Bank, customer experience has been profoundly researched to ascertain exactly what clients expect of the bank's relationship managers (RMs).
The result is CITICfirst Wealth Management, a premium service for clients with a minimum net worth of assets under management of HK$1,000,000. In response to local demand, CITICfirst incorporates every specific client requirement, revealed in independent surveys, as either unavailable or limited with other banks. Pitching above other institutions by leveraging an exceptional range of wealth solutions, the bank creates a new standard of pro-private banking and wealth management service in the market.
"For a start, we make it a priority to maintain a client-to-RM ratio of 250 to one," reveals Felix Lau, senior vice president & head of sales and distribution, CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited. Conversely, an RM in an average banking institution is usually required to serve 400 or more customers.
"Clients are more discerning and knowledgeable in today's fast-paced market environment. Therefore, providing timely market information and responding swiftly to client requests are absolutely vital," Mr Lau continues. When structuring investment portfolios and tailoring products, CITICfirst RMs always aim to achieve a three to four hour turnaround time. This again sets the bank apart from its competitors as both short- and long-term investment opportunities are maximised with such essential swiftness.
Once a CITICfirst account is up and running, clients can review their portfolio performance anytime via a sophisticated "Wealth Tracker" tool. Hailed as a service only offered in the private banking world, it offers a real time health check of a portfolio from a holistic view down to snapshots of performances of individual investment products at different time frames ranging from year-to-date to five years. "This is considered a unique and innovative retail banking service," Mr Lau notes.
A personalised alert service reminds clients when their portfolio reaches certain pre-set levels, allowing them and their RMs to fine-tune their portfolios and fully profit from market changes.
In order to achieve optimal results within a short period of time, CITIC Ka Wah Bank helps its RMs build an unparalleled foundation via comprehensive training initiatives that enable RMs to excel both professionally and personally.
Mr Lau underlines the importance of role plays, continuous assessments and development programmes which are all major training features to ensure RMs are well practised at discussing banking products competently, professionally and analytically. Clients are the ultimate beneficiaries of this rigorous training as they receive advice from a knowledgeable, confident and balanced RM who offers impartial and client-specific financial guidance.
According to Mr Lau, fully-fledged RMs are also bolstered by a "Wealth Management Platform" provided by CITIC Ka Wah Bank in the form of collated independent financial information and the analytical services of Standard & Poor's. Using analysis from this information alongside the results of individual CITICfirst client questionnaires, RMs can gauge the risk tolerance level of clients and subsequently suggest allocation percentages for asset classes such as cash, fixed income and equity.
In essence, CITICfirst promotes a level of financial synergy between client and RM to maximise financial opportunities. Understandably, clients wishing to leave investment decisions to the experts may do so, safe in the knowledge that their wealth management is in good hands.
This approach to investment makes an attractive proposition and positions CITIC Ka Wah Bank at the forefront of the field. In Mr Lau's opinion, the three structural pillars of product, platform and people within CITICfirst wealth management services function as an unparalleled supportive backdrop for potential RMs with regards to job satisfaction and professional development. RMs who excel in the position and achieve superlative results stand a good chance to be promoted to CITICfirst centre manager.
The dedicated and stable RM team is a clear indication of professional satisfaction levels at the bank. In the first half of 2008 alone, more than 1,000 new clients opted for CITICfirst and Mr Lau expects many more to follow as the bank's solid reputation for service and flexibility spreads rapidly by word of mouth.