HONG KONG'S homegrown financial advisory firm, Noble Apex Advisors, is on a rapid expansion drive and is seeking another 50 frontline financial planning consultants.
'At present, we have about 130 staff, of whom 100 are agents or financial planning consultants,' said Raymond Yu, the company's senior director.
'Our target is to have about 180 employees in total by the end of the year, so we are in the middle of a period of aggressive expansion.'
Specialising in investment advisory services, Noble Apex was founded in 1998 by three people, including M. F. Chan, who is widely acknowledged as one of Hong Kong's most highly qualified and experienced financial planners.
Mr Chan holds three master's degrees in the field and is now working on his doctoral thesis. For his previous employers, he managed more than HK$100 million in private client portfolios, and is a much sought-after analyst and commentator on financial planning issues.
Fellow founding directors Kisson Lau Tak-fu and Alex Lee Koon-shing also brought a wealth of experience to the company. The former had in-depth knowledge of strategic planning, unit trust investments and portfolio management, while the latter had specialised in advisory and portfolio management services.
According to Mr Yu, Noble previously focused on hiring experienced staff with at least three to five years of relevant experience. Now, with senior staff in place and running their own teams, candidates do not need to have an extensive track record in the sector.
'We can now look more closely at personality than at previous work background,' Mr Yu said.
'To be successful, candidates must be self-confident, skilled communicators, and have good presentation skills. They must learn to understand a customer's needs, so that they can tailor individual financial planning packages.'
As an independent financial advisory service, Noble Apex did not 'push' its own branded financial products, Mr Yu said, but instead selected the best products available on the market depending on the financial plan prepared for its customers.
'Our competitive advantage over big banks, for instance, is that we are independent. We take on the role of an agent and are able to choose whatever products suit our customers the best,' he said.
Applicants should be proficient in Cantonese as a basic requirement, but English and Putonghua would also be valuable skills because the company is looking to expand its customer base among the expatriate community and attract more Taiwanese and mainland Chinese clients.
No specific educational qualifications or age limit is required.
'Some of our consultants may have worked in another industry for up to 20 years before making a career change,' Mr Yu said. 'They can still achieve very good results, so age is not such an important factor.' He added that although the majority of Noble's financial consultants had a degree, there were exceptions to the general rule.
'For example, if candidates without a degree show promise in the interview, we may recruit them, but would then require them to study further, including study towards a CFP [certified financial planner] qualification for instance,' Mr Yu said.
New recruits could negotiate remuneration packages based on differing proportions of salary and commission, he said.
Those on a basic salary package will have a lower rate of commission; without a basic salary, the rate of commission will be higher.
'The choice depends on the mentality or experience of the person,' Mr Yu said.
'If they are confident about their ability to perform, they may choose to have zero basic salary. They may know they can achieve consistently high sales and therefore earn more at the higher rate of commission.'