Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Talent search to support investment services growth

by Wing Kei

Weber Lo, chief operating officer and director of retail banking, Citibank Global Consumer Group

Fresh graduates and more experienced personnel have great prospects in the wealth management sector

As banks focus more on providing wealth management and personalised financial services for customers, they must also step up their programmes to recruit and train professionals with the ability to advise on a continually more diverse range of products.

This explains why Citibank has shown such dedication over the years in hiring and developing its high-calibre CitiGold wealth management team, which specialises in helping investors maximise their assets. CitiGold was first established in 1982 as a priority banking service and was enhanced to a wealth management service in 2001. It is supported by financial experts around the world, and its top priority is to understand customers' financial needs and objectives.

Weber Lo, chief operating officer of the global consumer group for Citibank says: "It's a competitive market for recruitment since nowadays people have greater awareness of the importance of wealth management. With an increasing number of customers, we are concentrating even more on recruiting the right talent." This means looking for both recent graduates with potential and practitioners with a few years' experience in the industry. At present there is roughly a 50/50 split between these two categories of recruit.

The CitiGold wealth management team comprises a group of relationship managers with the expertise to handle client portfolios, provide investment advice and meet all strategic client requirements. "Working as a relationship manager is not just a job," says Mr Lo. "It requires dedication to meet a customer's complete financial needs and provide the comprehensive analysis and customised strategy which are part of this. Recruits have to learn about the service standards, meet business targets and know how to handle client requests," he adds.

Market updates

Every member of staff has to undergo a six- to eight-week training programme which includes modules in investment, product knowledge, customer service and market analysis, which are all seen as important factors in being able to get on well with clients. "We also organise online training to update our staff on market trends and use role plays to help them cope with different situations," says Mr Lo.

Apart from completing comprehensive training programmes, new staff have to take the obligatory licensing examinations which are a prelude to obtaining professional qualifications.

According to Mr Lo, candidates suitable for a position with the wealth management team should be outgoing, willing to adapt to change, good team players, and have a wide-ranging knowledge of investment. "Our services are expanding so newcomers must be willing to learn and keep pace with the ever-changing investment business," he notes. "Banks offer a more secure trading platform and have an image of credibility in the eyes of the public." He adds that CitiGold also offers one-stop financial services including mortgage loans, credit cards, investment and savings products. The success of these is based on the bank's long history in the industry and the trust which has been developed among customers.

China prospects

In view of the mainland's potential for the sale of financial products, there are now many possibilities for people to make career progress across the border. "We have our back-office functions in China, so there are already good opportunities for people to develop their careers from there," Mr Lo says.

Since 2004, the bank has been cooperating with the University of Hong Kong in running the HKU-Citibank University Banking Course, which is designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of modern banking operations and knowledge of essential industry practices. "This move has also helped us in recruiting graduates with ability and interest in the sector," says Mr Lo.

In total, there are now 25 CitiGold centres in Hong Kong and the wealth management team has seen a 40 per cent growth in headcount since last year. "We aim to maintain the same rate of growth in the foreseeable future," Mr Lo concludes.

Managing relationships

  • Competition to recruit wealth managers is tougher than ever
  • The relationship manager's role requires dedication and in-depth product knowledge
  • Training modules include role plays plus communication and social skills
  • Candidates must be adaptable enough to work in an ever-changing investment environment
  • Opportunities related to the mainland market seem certain to increase rapidly
  • Last year's 40 per cent increase in wealth management staff may be repeated in 2005

Taken from Career Times 07 October 2005
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