By carrying off the top prize as the Grand Award winner at the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) Financial Planner Awards, Vivian Wong proved that she was indeed able to "Outserve" the competition.
As a senior personal financial manager with Standard Chartered Bank (HK) Ltd, Ms Wong had said beforehand that the best way of differentiating oneself was by providing superior customer service.
Obviously, the competition judges not only agreed with her philosophy, but were also impressed by her ability to put it into practice. "It tells me what I'm doing is right and that service excellence can always be enhanced," she says. "While preparing for the competition, I had a chance to reflect on my own work performance and polish my skills."
In her career as a financial planner, Ms Wong has always believed in the importance of showing oneself to be a responsible, sincere and trustworthy professional. This applies to all aspects of the job — from doing thorough preparation prior to a client meeting to discussing financial needs, explaining investment options, putting the right plan in place, and performing regular reviews.
Ms Wong has often found that it helps to put herself in the client's shoes. This allows her to consider the likely questions and anticipate some of the customer's probable financial objectives. In that way, she can also have the necessary information at her fingertips and be ready to explain the pros and cons of any investment choice. Quincy Cheng, senior manager, Standard Chartered Bank (HK) Ltd, believes this is also one of Ms Wong's strengths. "Vivian is a good listener," he says. "She's able to demonstrate an excellence customer service attitude, which is most important in our operations."
As a point of principle, Ms Wong aims to contact her clients roughly once a month to keep them fully up to date with the latest market information. She will also take the opportunity to mention new products and recommend any adjustments to the portfolio that would make sense. Her golden rule is to offer advice rather than to try and hard sell any particular product.
Not surprisingly, this is in line with Standard Chartered's philosophy of putting the customer's interest first and building relationships which are like partnerships. "In this way, it is possible to create mutual trust and, as the results can prove, a higher overall level of customer satisfaction," Mr Cheng adds.
Analysing what helped her to win the Grand Award, Ms Wong says it was probably that she has learned to examine the information provided by a customer very carefully. If necessary, she reminds herself that no two people are the same, so each financial plan must be tailor-made to meet specific individual requirements.
The award marks a significant milestone in her career. Looking ahead, she says the award will act as a source of encouragement and inspiration to work harder. "Encouragement and recognition from external parties and reputable organisations such as HKIB and Career Times are very important to both myself and our profession," she remarks.
Mr Cheng points out that the world of financial planning never stands still, so it is essential to keep learning in order to advance professionally and build a successful career. It is vital to have a clear view of the business, but also a broad knowledge of current affairs, demographic changes and market trends. Without that, it is difficult to be in a position to advise clients about factors they may not have encountered or opportunities they should be starting to think about.
Ms Wong believes that the courses and seminars arranged by Standard Chartered have played a big part in helping her to keep up with industry changes and complete her ongoing education requirements. She says that this allows financial planners like herself to keep improving and to be reminded, if necessary, of the ethical principle which guide the profession. "Winning the Grand Award has triggered many emotional responses," Ms Wong says. "Reaching the final stage wasn't easy so I'm ever so grateful for all the support and encouragement from the bank, colleagues, and in particular my customers and family."
In summary, Ms Wong says that she found participating in the Awards competition turned out to be a far more meaningful experience than she had originally expected. As Mr Cheng concludes, "They have not only given a boost to people in the profession, but will also help to improve understanding of the industry among members of the general public."