Bank gets ready to meet new challenges
Anna Healy Fenton
Hong Kong's demographics are undergoing a significant change caused by the city's rapidly ageing population. This, combined with people staying in the workforce for longer and the rising number of women compared with men - and many of those women being the breadwinner - spells big challenges for the financial planning industry.
Despite this, personal financial needs still fall into three phases, says Ngan Lei-tjen, head of the consumer banking academy at Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong).
First, she says, comes the awareness stage, when young adults start to earn their first salaries and become spending consumers.
Second comes the planning stage: when the young person matures and acquires a more sophisticated lifestyle and becomes more interested in balancing outgoings with investment for their future. Then comes the harvesting stage: when the older person reaps the rewards of their investment efforts.
But despite the life stage developments for individual customers remaining the same, she said there were some characteristic changes. 'A longer post-retirement life means they need to think about investing more at a younger age,' Ngan said.
The bank was always aware of the changing needs of potential and existing customers and strove to offer suitable services to match.
'The common thread with almost all clients nowadays is concern about the effect of high inflation rates on their savings and the uncertain economic outlook,' said Daniel Chow Shiu-lun, general manager, sales and distribution. 'These have become the key customer concerns.'
Ngan explained that the bank had thought of this eventuality. Anticipating customers' focus would shift to their longer post-retirement lives and saving more money earlier to fund them, Standard Chartered had built up specialised teams geared to offering tailored investment options, with category specialists in loans, insurance, securities and investments.
'We work the 'SCB way' - the way of engaging customers, the way of delivering a differentiated and consistent brand promise - in a total customer-relationship approach,' she said. 'All our relationship managers conduct needs-based conversations with clients before identifying appropriate services for them, meeting the financial planning and wealth management needs of changing demographics.'
Chow said that the change in some clients' attitude towards people in his profession and business, in light of the global financial meltdown, could actually be favourable for Standard Chartered.
'We are committed to delivering superior financial performance for our shareholders and committed to working diligently to massively multiply our leadership capability, while backing up our strong frontline team to put our customers' needs at the centre of everything we do,' he said.
When it came to coping generally with negative fallout from the financial crisis, continuous training for those on the frontline was essential.
Chow said each client came to the bank with a purpose. 'We ask ourselves if that customer's basic purpose has been fulfilled, executed well and followed up properly and thoroughly,' he said.
He was happy to explain the bank's transparent attitude to its charges and commissions, saying: 'All our frontliners understand the importance of disclosure of fees and charging structure to customers. We will make full disclosure to our customers and explain the effect that this may have on their investments.' Fees and charging structures could affect a customer's financial decision to a greater or lesser extent, he added.