Sales / Marketing

Stepping stones to success

by Ada Ng

Derek Man, manager—distribution
customer service & development
Altruist Financial Group Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan

Bright future for finance professionals that heed ethics and serve clients' best interests

Financial planners need to keep fully abreast of the latest industry knowledge and meet all accreditation requirements to get a foot in the door, but the right attitude and work ethic are also crucial to thriving in the long term.

"Aside from this, we also need a wide scope of personal attributes, including self-motivation and initiative, good communication skills and a service-oriented and honest mindset," says Derek Man, manager —distribution, customer service & development, Altruist Financial Group Limited.

Mr Man, who has been in the industry for 12 years, notes that financial know-how and analytical ability alone are not enough. "To carve out a sustained and rewarding career, you've got to keep your nose to the grindstone, keep your clients' best interests at heart and develop strong moral principles."

Strong backing

Established in 2001, Altruist is an independent financial consultancy that tailors solutions to customers' long-term financial needs.

Since Altruist's financial planners essentially run their own operations, with total control over their income and career progression, it is essential that they cultivate effective and professional working habits, says Mr Man.

"Client prospecting is king in this industry. Planners wanting to succeed must take the initiative to approach prospective clients and find out about their long-term financial aspirations," he adds.

He concedes that this is a challenging task for young advisers who have yet to develop an extensive contact base. However, Altruist's customer service and development unit offers support and hands-on mentorship to help newcomers mature into independent professionals.

With mentorship complementing classroom training on technical knowledge and skills, it can take up to a year for young associates to move on to more senior roles. "There're no substitutes for practical experience, and working with someone who has already gone through the necessary steps to become a financial adviser can be an invaluable experience," says Mr Man who in his role as team leader, gives inexperienced planners the opportunity to work on "orphan accounts"—clients of former planners that have left the company.

Under the watchful eye of experienced mentors, new planners learn the ways of approaching clients, including the skills to understand and analyse their financial needs and risk-tolerance levels, in order to develop appropriate portfolios for them. They also get to know the proper industry procedures and ethics to conduct transactions and build trusting, long-term customer relations.

Once new planners have gained sufficient confidence and know-how, they may generate their own client lists, but mentoring does not end at this point. "We continue monitoring and reviewing our young associates' progress to ensure they comply with best practices and act according to compliance guidelines in all transactions," Mr Man stresses.

To get a head start in the industry, financial planners must have the right attitude in helping clients achieve their financial goals. They also need to adhere to stringent criteria when assessing the feasibility and suitability of financial solutions. "We don't want our associates to fall into the trap of solely achieving their own short-term business targets. We want them to achieve success in the industry in the long run," he remarks.

Mentors review new recruits' performance regularly and provide the necessary moral support and counselling to help them deal with rejection from prospective clients and to identify ways of achieving their maximum potential.

Moving up

Financial planning is a popular career choice, which is resistant to recession and highly rewarding.

After entering the profession as a banker in 1998, Mr Man has personally experienced three periods of economic crisis: the 2000 bubble, SARS in 2003 and the 2008 global financial downturn.

"In spite of the major uncertainty during those times, the sector has remained sound and stable," he notes. "In this profession, I feel that I'm in control of my destiny. The harder I work, the more rewarding it becomes."

Financial planning also opens up ample career opportunity, he points out. "Planners are not restricted to merely growing their client bases and income levels, but they also have the chance to move into supervisory and managerial roles."

Altruist's financial planners with about three years of experience and a proven record of achievements are eligible to be promoted to senior positions such as Altruist business development managers. There are also options for entrepreneurial minded professionals to build their own teams and develop their own agency forces. Those who have a year's experience plus a good track record can expect promotion to the position of assistant team managers.

Steady progress

  • Planners need know-how and good work ethic, as well as initiative and good communication skills
  • Support, mentorship and training help young planners move on to more independent roles
  • Recession-resistant and highly rewarding career choice for service-oriented, ethical practitioners

Taken from Career Times 9 July 2010, B4

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