As Hong Kong's economy shows positive signs of growth, property values are on the increase, exports are on the rise, trading volumes are up and Hong Kong's securities industry is beginning to anticipate a bright year ahead. And, as more people focus on the market and neighbouring China's influence becomes ever more pervasive, the retail brokerage business is bouncing back at a steady rate, quickly recovering from the recent economic turmoil.
In particular, Hong Kong's dollar reserves are growing substantially and this will further stimulate the securities industry. But, most importantly, China is now the biggest influence on the Hong Kong market when it comes to trading and investment. "2004 is very positive for the securities industry in Hong Kong. In 2003, the transaction volume averaged four to five billion dollars per day. Now, it is up to 20 billion plus per day," explains Sunny Wong, managing director of the Retail Brokerage Department, BOCI Securities Ltd. "The Hong Kong economy is picking up and CEPA has helped a lot."
2004 is very positive for the securities industry
Today, online trading is one of the most popular ways for experts and novices alike to invest in the market and manage their portfolios. BOCI Securities, for example, provides local and overseas securities trading through a secure technological online platform. Customers can access their accounts via the Internet, personal computers, mobile phones, interactive voice response systems or in the old-fashioned way - by simply calling up investor service specialists. Investors can manage multi-market, multi-currency and multi-product line investments in one consolidated account. Online trading is very important, Mr Wong explains: "Customers want to trade through the Internet rather than talk. Additionally, the commission charge on Internet trading is cheaper than offline trading."
According to BOCI Securities, "the performance of our trading engine sets us apart". The company allegedly has the most competitive trading platform in Hong Kong, with a direct link from the Hong Kong exchange to the US stock exchange. Indeed, "BOCI is one of the fastest brokerages when it comes to routing orders from our platform to the exchange. It takes one or two seconds to transmit the order," according to BOCI's customer service department.
The new trading centre also features a cyber caf?which is used for customer demonstrations and as a walk-in online trading area for customers. "With the great pressures of a daily trading day, staff can also use the cyber caf?as a place to relax," says Mr Wong
People make the difference
Behind its glitzy new trading floor and its fast technology lies the heart of the company - its people. Investor specialists, account executives and customer service representatives keep things ticking behind the scenes. As the securities market rebounds, job opportunities continue to increase. With the recent opening of its online centre, BOCI Securities has 40 salespeople on board - with the target of growing to a team of 120 in the near future.
Account executives make up the core of the sales and marketing team. "They must come from recognised corporations and need to understand all kinds of products, not just securities," explains Mr Wong. Job progression enables the account executive to move on to the positions of sales manager, senior sales manager, associate director and sales director.
Mr Wong indicates that the company is looking for account executives with the minimum qualification of a university degree and three to five years' experience, together with securities and futures licences. "A CPA or CFA is a bonus," he adds. Language skills are of particular importance. "The corporate language is Mandarin including all internal and external communications," he says. "Mandarin is a basic need, since many of our clients are Mandarin speakers."
Although the hiring requirements are quite stringent and the competition intense, the monetary rewards for working in the securities industry make the hard work worthwhile. Mr Wong estimates that, depending on the volume of transactions, account executives can earn anywhere from as little as HK$10 - 20,000 per month to as much as HK$100,000 or more. "Account executives can trade all kinds of products and still make money. If the markets are down, they can trade futures and commodities for hedging," he says.
Besides sales and marketing, customer service is an integral part of BOCI Securities. As the volume of online trading continues to grow, it has established a 24-hour call centre and increased staffing within its customer service department. Thus, when customers are away from their computers, they can place orders by telephone and access the help desk with queries about online orders or accounts.
Professional licensing in securities or futures is a prerequisite for working within the industry. Mr Wong explains that the licensing examinations are set by the Hong Kong Securities Institute. "All kinds of people can take the exam to learn more about the industry," he says. This also allows people in other careers, such as sales or accounting, to make the transition to the securities industry.