Financial Planning / Wealth Management

The HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards Series Three

by Wendy Shair

Private bankers reign supreme in specialist realm

The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers since last year incorporated a third category in its annual Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards with an aim to underscore the contribution of private bankers (for high net worth customers with "investable" assets of over US$1 million) to the sustainable development of the city's banking and finance industry. The adjudication line-up of six financial veterans met the award hopefuls in the second round presentation session.

Iconic significance

Edward Chow, managing director and market head of Greater China
Bank of Singapore
Edward Chow, managing director and market head of Greater China, Bank of Singapore, is impressed with the performances of this year's awards candidates. "These group-C candidates have shown members of the judging panel a good discipline in discharging their obligation and responsibility as prudent financial planners to their clients. As the driving force behind the sustainable growth of Hong Kong's banking and finance industry, they are helping to enhance its overall operating environment."

People that look to establish themselves as professionals in the private banking sector should pursue advanced knowledge and skills through active participation in continuous learning initiatives and other professional development programmes. "Aside from technical competence, they must also possess good listening skills in order to cultivate and maintain a trusting relationship with their customers. It is of equal importance that they are equipped with a positive mind-set to turn challenges into opportunities," he says.

Customer behaviour and financial objectives can change with global economic trends but customer relations remain key in any given situations, Mr Chow stresses.

He cautions that high net worth customers are, more often than not, savvy investors who are as much in touch with the markets as they are with their financial aspirations. Financial planners must therefore have a thorough understanding of the specific attributes of available products and assist their customers with the best possible financial solutions.

"Participation in the HKIB Awards motivates financial planners to push the envelope," he adds, "Planners that look to move into private banking roles should beef up their investment knowledge, communication skills and proper risk analysis to contribute eventually to the wellbeing of the industry."

Sustainable growth

Jose Hui, deputy general manager
Bank of China
Private Banking (Macau)
Jose Hui, deputy general manager, Bank of China, Private Banking (Macau), says the second-round candidates of the HKIB Awards show great promise. "I see in this group of awards candidates professionalism, efficiency, emotional quotient and intelligence," he says.

In his experience, high net worth customers tend to look to sustainable asset management to safeguard their financial future and build their wealth. "They also look for tailored solutions to achieve their investment strategies."

For this reason, he says, private bankers that are equipped with strategic thinking skills will find themselves standing by their clients' side. "In addition to this, the more they learn about their clients the better they can serve their financial objectives."

Mr Hui emphasises that client relations form the very backbone of a rewarding career in the highly competitive banking sector. "It takes time to build a strong, trusting relationship with a customer so effective communication is paramount to service excellence."

He reveals that the awards candidates' performances during the oral presentation session were consistent and reassuring. This, he adds, is a result of not only years of practical experience but also good preparation. "They presented their ideas and clarified seemingly complicated financial concepts in a professional manner," he explains. "They were also able to display noteworthy market sensitivity, empathy and competence in recognising their clients' unique financial positions and wealth management goals."

The HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards emphasise the HKIB's support in consolidating and enhancing the banking industry's competitive advantages. "This makes the event extremely worthwhile," he says.

Up-close and personal

Linda Leung
head of private banking department
The Bank of East Asia
Over the last few years, Hong Kong's private bankers have gained an expanded role in the city's burgeoning wealth management industry. Linda Leung, head, private banking department, The Bank of East Asia, emphasises that high-performing individuals in the realm of private banking are typically characterised by certain attributes—they are diligent, presentable and sincere.

These, she adds, provide evidence of their interest in their clients' financial wellbeing and are the building blocks of a trusting client relationship, which in turn helps banking professionals to gain credibility in the ever-evolving industry.

In Ms Leung's opinions, the majority of Hong Kong's high net worth customers have several investment portfolios at hand. As such, private bankers must seek to understand their clients' immediate financial concerns and needs in order to ensure that their portfolios are reviewed in a timely manner.

She notes however that this only constitutes a fraction of a private banker's job. "What differentiates a good private banker from a mediocre one is a keen sense of responsibility," she stresses. In addition to this, private bankers should be adept at change and be able to exercise good judgement, people skills and sales techniques at all times.

Ms Leung says that the annual HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards offer aspiring banking individuals a solid platform to broaden their exposure and put their skills and knowledge in the limelight. "This year's group-C participants are detail-oriented and they possess the right knowledge, mind-set and attitude particularly when it comes to identifying and meeting the expectation of discerning private banking clients," she states.

Service excellence

Maria Leung
director of Citigold Private Client
Citibank Hong Kong
In its sixth year running, the HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards is now widely seen as a valuable platform for banks and other financial institutions to promote best practice, HR excellence and professionalism. Participation in the high-level event also gives a banking career an extra dimension.

Maria Leung, director of Citigold Private Client, Citibank Hong Kong, believes that the event participants have an excellent opportunity to showcase their flair, passion and enthusiasm. "They are dedicated to providing advice and services to high net worth clients, setting the bar for excellence in the fast-paced banking industry," she says.

Private bankers should be in tune with global market trends and in so doing they stay responsive to their clients' explicit and implicit needs including those for lifestyle and business, taking into account the intricacy of interactions between those trends and client needs in the planning process, she remarks. This level of sophistication in addition to product knowledge helps to create a professional image for private bankers.

She also points out that the increased complexity of the banking and finance industry amplifies the importance of continuous learning and professional upgrade. "From a macro point of view, the banking sector definitely needs savvy professionals to help spark new momentum for ensuring the sustainability and growth of this prestige and unique banking segment," Ms Leung asserts.

A private banking clientele typically comprises successful business owners, entrepreneurs and senior executives from large corporation. "In view of this and the volume of client assets involved, professionals in the field are expected to possess extensive knowledge and understanding of their clients' world, in addition to being versed in financial planning and investment advisory," she says.

Strict compliance

Alan Luk, head of private banking
and trust services
Hang Seng Bank
"As volatility continues to permeate the global business landscape, it is of ultra importance that private bankers observe strict compliance requirements and exercise caution and care when conducting their daily activities."

The view is shared by Alan Luk, head of private banking and trust services, Hang Seng Bank. Mr Luk notes that major industry events like the HKIB Awards help to broaden the participants' horizons but it is down to the individuals to raise the standards of the banking and finance community. Integrity and a positive attitude are essential in this regard.

Aside from obtaining the required qualifications, a competent financial professional must also be able to adjust their client servicing approach and frame of mind, in order to rejuvenate their business and career drives.

With Mainland China now acting as a growth engine for Hong Kong's banking sector, Mr Luk says that the outlook for the industry will remain rosy and that opportunity will be abound in spite of fierce competition. "Professionals in the banking and finance industry must be geared towards future changes and opportunities. They should never rest on their laurels."

He adds that competent and diligent private bankers go to great lengths to understand their clients' wealth management needs. "They can share with their clients a common interest and perhaps invite them to certain activities. This helps to nurture professional relationships as well as friendships," he advises. "At the end of the day, people at both ends of this customer-planner equation will reap the rewards."

Increased sophistication

Michelle Yam
senior vice president
EFG Bank AG, Hong Kong
Michelle Yam, senior vice president, EFG Bank AG, Hong Kong, says candidates of this year's HKIB Awards displayed superlative professional skills. "They gave a superb performance in the oral presentation session," she notes. "It's obvious that they all made considerable efforts and this will eventually pay off at work too."

She adds that private bankers must have a good grasp of their clients' financial needs and investment objectives. "They must also build and maintain good rapport with their customers, while developing their analytical abilities and communications skills because the bulk of their responsibility is to present to the clients their investment proposals in a clear and professional manner."

According to Ms Yam, recent volatilities in the global economy have prompted private bankers to reassess and beef up their skills especially in customer service, technical competence and customer relationship management.

"High net worth customers usually enlist the help of several private bankers," she notes. "Professional qualifications, accreditations and experience create added value to the customers but private bankers will find continuous learning instrumental in expanding their skills repertoire and in enhancing their market sense."

Hong Kong's banking professionals are best known around the world for their above-par service. "Regardless of our international reputation, banking employers must continue to keep their people in check and employees in turn must seek very possible avenue to sharpen their professional edges because the global financial market is developing in such an alarming rate," Ms Yam concludes. "Continuous learning is clearly indispensible, and it's always wise to keep a finger on the pulse of the shifting financial climate."

Taken from Career Times 16 September 2011

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