Money Moves

Securities firm looks to online option

by Ella Lee

This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

Peter Wong, chief financial officer, Tai Fook Securities Group
Photo: Johnny Kwok

China's economic power is undeniable and it is now creating excellent prospects for companies in the financial services industry. However, practitioners in the field are fully aware that, to make the most of this unparalleled opportunity, they must keep pace with change and exhibit the highest levels of professionalism.

Peter Y. H. Wong, chief financial officer of Tai Fook Securities Group, says there are around 1.3 million investors in Hong Kong, but potentially 70 million in China. Although he is confident that Hong Kong will remain as an international financial centre capable of providing every kind of product and global investment service, he says that industry professionals must improve their knowledge of the mainland market. This includes understanding the language and culture, as well as the main political, social and economic developments.

Mr Wong's opinion is directly influenced by what he sees within the securities business. Rapid growth in client transactions has created steady demand for new staff in everything from frontline sales and customer service posts to back-office market research and corporate communications positions. Experienced people with good written English and fluent Putonghua are needed to help the company meet its targets, but they are hard to find.

Tai Fook's strategy is to create an internal pool of talented staff and guide their long-term development. Each person in the group receives at least 40 hours of training a year. This varies depending on individual job requirements and can include product updates, language courses, or management, communication and negotiation skills. In addition, the most promising employees can join a two-year leadership development programme and receive subsidies to take courses in financial services at leading universities in Hong Kong and Macau.

The company knows it is vital to offer staff a challenging career path. "We have been expanding our products and services as well as extending coverage to other locations such as China and Japan," says Mr Wong. "This means there will be many opportunities for employees to maximise their potential."

Financial markets will always fluctuate and, as the investing public becomes more knowledgeable, securities professionals must prepare to face new challenges. They must not just know their products, but also think more about various aspects of service and business ethics, says Mr Wong.

He stresses that the securities business is not the place for easy money. It takes time and effort for professionals to acquire investment knowledge, gain trust and establish relationships with clients. "Customer referral is essential in our field, and newcomers can expect the first three to five years to be most challenging," he says.

In the long run, Mr Wong believes that online trading will be a major trend, although it seems to be developing comparatively slowly in Hong Kong, with only about 15 per cent of stock trading now done online. "The reasons for the current low penetration include the convenience of trading by phone and the large number of branches which are operating," he explains. "But for a huge market like China, online trading is definitely more cost effective."

Taken from Career Times 07 October 2005, p. A16
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