Money Moves

Stronghold of professionalism

by Grace Chan

Financial house branches out amid economic squalls

(left to right)
Mark Chui, vice president Joey Lo, senior financial planning manager
Ivan Lee, sales director; Derek Lai, vice president
Centaline Financial Services Limited
Photo: Wallace Chan

Having a unique business advantage is often the key to sustainable success, particularly during times of volatility.

Safe under the umbrella of the Centaline Group, Centaline Financial Services Limited (CFSL) provides its customers with astute and comprehensive investment analysis to help them achieve their financial goals.

CFSL started operating as an independent financial advisor in 2003. Nowadays, the company offers a wide range of wealth management solutions to clients, comprising financial planning, asset protection, mutual fund investment, and life and general insurance, with an extensive selection of products from some 20 prominent providers. Despite its brief history, the company has already developed a strong team of more than 200 financial consultants.

"Real estate investments often constitute the largest part of an investment portfolio. One of our competitive edges is the availability of timely property information. However, the essence of wealth management is to achieve financial goals through the diversification of investment tools and asset allocation," says Ivan Lee, sales director, CFSL.

Aside from managing properties in investment portfolios, CFSL also rides on the group's close bond with banking institutions, giving the company the upper hand in arranging favourable mortgage rates and terms for customers, adds Derek Lai, a CFSL vice president. "Due to our group's strong presence in China, customers there also have trust in our brand, giving our consultants a wealth of business opportunities," he adds.

Diverse platform

Backed by an in-house research department, committed CFSL financial consultants are able to provide reliable financial advice based on sophisticated statistical analyses. "Our research department is one of the biggest among IFAs," says Mark Chui, who is also a CFSL vice president. He remarks that frequent market updates derived from the research team enable consultants to make unbiased recommendations and communicate those with customers effectively.

Meanwhile, the company maintains a neutral stance. "We do not hard sell any securities or investment products. By maintaining a high level of objectivity and impartiality, our consultants are in the best position to identify realistic investment options that would help our clients to maximise their returns," Mr Chui confirms.

"Our corporate culture encourages opinions exchange between consultants. In so doing, we have a thorough understanding of the investment options before advising our customers," says Joey Lo, a senior financial planning manager at CFSL.

The company receives plenty of internal support from its parent group. For instance, business referrals from other members of the group allow CFSL to extend its customer base in both Hong Kong and China.

"CFSL was one of the first IFAs to branch out," says Ms Lo. "We now have branches in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok, making our presence highly visible and our service accessible to various customer segments including Hong Kong people and visitors from the mainland."

Wide exposure

People are the core of CFSL's future success, according to Mr Lee. As such, an elite club was formed to recognise the achievements of outstanding consultants. Every year, only the top performing consultants are admitted to the club. "It's a real privilege," notes Mr Lee. Members of the club are immersed in a range of special activities and training sessions, including overseas guided tours, team coaching and dialogue with CEOs. Elite members can also look forward to opportunities up the corporate ladder.

Ms Lo is one of this year's elites who received an education allowance of HK$3,000. She emphasises that the club has a great deal more to offer. "In addition to experiential workshops with business celebrities, a new yachting course will be arranged in August," she remarks. "These kinds of activities can widen our exposure and help us lay a solid foundation for becoming a good leader."

Besides this, CFSL encourages its financial consultants to attain relevant accolades such as the Distinguished Salesperson Award (DSA) organised jointly by the Hong Kong Management Association and the Sales and Marketing Executives Club of Hong Kong.

Mr Lee, Mr Chui, Mr Lai and Ms Lo all received awards this year. "Through intensive training sessions for the competition, my presentation skills have been improved significantly," says Ms Lo.

Financial consultants at CFSL are expected to have strong self-motivation to maintain business and develop new ones. "We value professional competence and sales performance over seniority. Capable consultants will be put on a fast track to take up management roles," says Mr Lai, who advanced to his current position in less than three years.

Key strengths

  • Property investment information a competitive edge
  • Neutrality ensures objectivity in mapping out financial solutions for customers
  • Industry awards acknowledge professional achievements
  • Self-motivation necessary

Taken from Career Times 03 July 2009, p. A3
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