Convoy full speed ahead with recruitment drive

As the financial crisis has highlighted the need for more prudent wealth management, Convoy Financial Services is opening up opportunities for those seeking to become independent financial advisers.

'We established the company with about 10 people [in 1993]. Now we have about 1,400 frontline staff, but we really want to project it to 2,000 this year,' said Quincy Wong Lee-man, the company's chairman who noted that the firm was mainly seeking consultants.

Unlike other financial institutions, such as banks and insurance companies that have suffered in this crisis, Convoy has been able to withstand the financial storm thanks to a unique approach to wealth management and is aiming for growth of 30 to 40 per cent this year.

Mr Wong said that, unlike other financial institutions that carried and sold their own products, Convoy observed the needs of its clients and co-operated with fund houses, institutions, companies and banks to match client needs with the right products and plans. As such, there is no pressure to sell any in-house products to a particular client.

'Because the market has changed and the need for financial planning and asset management remains the same, there is lost confidence in the market.

'That means people will shift from the traditional thinking about banks and turn to maybe something else,' said Mr Wong, adding that the same thing had happened before in the industry.

Given these trends, Mr Wong believes this is a good time for anyone interested in joining the wealth management industry and is calling on those who are serious about joining the field to apply.

'We are the biggest in the independent financial planning industry and we have a lot of training that we provide to our people, so if there are people who want to join the financial planning industry, it would be wise to join Convoy as we have good confidence we can achieve growth this year,' he said.

The company, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, has an impressive growth record. It is an employer of choice after scooping the Hewitt Best Employers in Hong Kong award this year.

True to Convoy's vision and mission to care and respect, to contribute and to lead, employees are always its first consideration.

Rosetta Fong Sut-sam, chief executive of Convoy Financial Services and executive director of Convoy Financial Group, said: 'We are not just a company where our first priority is making a profit.'

As an example, alternative cost-cutting measures were taken when the crisis hit. Mr Wong and Ms Fong agreed to have their salaries cut to just HK$10 instead of turning to layoffs.

'We think Convoy's people are one of our most valued assets and we are investing in them already, so we don't think of the term layoff - we find other ways to cut costs,' Ms Fong said.

Mr Wong added: 'Doing business is always about making difficult choices. I think cutting your own salary is more difficult than cutting people, but we just have to do the right thing.

'It's not a matter of policy; it's that when we say we treasure our people and treasure our talent, we should do it. If you say you treasure the people and on the other hand you lay them off, then it's not right.'

This comes as a logical statement considering the extensive training the company invests in its people. Last year alone, staff at Convoy received more than 1,000 training hours.

'There are 250 working days, so if you work it out, it's about four hours of training that goes on every day, whether it's in product training, soft skills or hard skills,' Mr Wong said.

But joining the company is not easy.

Recruits are placed on a six-month probation period during which the company screens them to see if they are capable. Trainees undergo interviews and processes on a continuous basis, including fulfilling their licence registration and business appraisals. Upon successful completion, they join the company as consultants.

Mr Wong emphasises that it is tough, so only those serious about growing their career in this field should apply.

The retention rate during probation is only about 50 per cent, but those who successfully become consultants stay with the company for a long time, so overall turnover rate at the company for full-time staff is low.

While candidates can come from all sorts of backgrounds, Mr Wong said one thing they must understand was that the management of their careers was their own responsibility. 'We just provide the facility and all the support - and everyone in the company is given the same chance,' he said.

The ingredient for success is dedication to the job. Mr Wong said that candidates must want to survive the probation period and must want to learn, demonstrating strong self-motivation and communication and interpersonal skills.

'If you want a career in the financial market, I think financial advising is a good choice and, of course, among the good choices, we are the best,' he said.