The key to providing good financial advice is to understand both the genuine needs of clients and general market trends. Consultants must also strike a balance between respecting the decisions of individual investors and advising them to look into alternatives which may not yet have been given sufficient consideration.
According to Norman Chan, director of investment services for Altruist Financial Group Limited, these are among the most essential attributes required of any wealth management professional.
Therefore, the company works closely with many renowned financial institutions to offer comprehensive advisory services for a diverse range of investment and insurance products, as well as to assist with asset management and tax planning. Their aim is to act as a one-stop shop by offering exactly what individual clients may be looking for in terms of advice and products to invest in.
"My investment services department works with our financial consultants and supports them with both investment and administrative assistance so that they can meet their clients' requirements," explains Mr Chan. "To serve as an independent adviser, we also perform proprietary macro research, fund analysis and other product selection."
This research and analysis is applied to all asset types and different geographic regions, enabling the company to design the right asset mix for investors with different risk profiles. "We identify market or investment opportunities and find the best manager to capture that growth for our investors," says Mr Chan.
Altruist will examine the reasons behind track records to assess whether a certain formula for success is repeatable and hence worth the investment of people's hard-earned capital. "When selecting funds, we emphasise knowledge of what's behind the numbers, instead of just relying on past performance," he adds.
As an independent financial adviser (IFA), the company recognises any financial plan must be based firmly on an understanding of the customer's needs. "It is important to start by establishing trust so that our clients can see our abilities and ethical approach," Mr Chan says.
He believes there is currently great potential for growth in the wealth management sector. New recruits are needed and it is not always easy to fill available positions. "We have made a commitment to arranging full training for our financial consultants so that all our advisory services are presented to clients in the most professional way," he adds. Recruits are therefore expected to obtain all necessary financial licences and to attend mandatory in-house training programmes. They also have weekly market update meetings, team briefings, ad-hoc product advice and regular seminars on issues which are affecting the industry from local and global perspectives.
"We look for people who clearly have both the interest and ability to do the job well," Mr Chan notes. "They must enjoy helping others and be able to see things from the customer's point of view. They should also understand how important it is to build a trusting relationship, which means having good communication skills and the right sales techniques as well."
Altruist currently has a total of 140 financial consultants and back-office support staff serving a 50,000 clients base. Going forward, they expect to continue to cooperate closely with their chosen business partners and to add to the range of investment products as and when appropriate.