Listening is vital
Whether top-notch private bankers and wealth managers are born with the skills needed in the industry, or acquire them through training and experience, there is one overarching criteria for success: they must be good listeners.
"The key skill is the ability to listen and understand - which is easier said than done," says Enid Yip, Asia CEO at Bank Sarasin. She also believes a great private banker must have the ability to win and inspire trust. "All the diplomas in the world mean nothing without trust, and trust is fostered and grown through genuine listening."
Another important ability, according to Yip, is the need to empathise with clients. "You need to appreciate how they value their wealth - not only from the perspective of actual assets, but also the emotional value they attach to their achievements," she says.
According to Yip, a great private banker needs to be able to respond in a very human way, and not strictly be numbers-driven. It is also important to have broad horizons and be able to share not just financial information, but also talk about culture, literature, art and music.
"Private banking is not about money - it is about aspirations. It's our job to understand those aspirations and help the client to achieve them," Yip says.
Kwang Kam-shing, market manager for Hong Kong at JPMorgan Private Bank, also believes private banking requires a broad range of technical and people skills. "Private banking is unique in its nature because it is a relationship- and people-orientated business, not just transactional business," she says.
She says that, in addition to basic academic qualifications, there are some quintessential qualities a private banker needs. These include integrity, good teamwork and sound judgment.
"Generally speaking, a good private banker would always put clients' interests at the forefront and be able to pull in the right resources at the right time to address specific needs," Kwang says.
She adds that soft skills, such as interpersonal and client-management abilities, are also important, as is being perceptive and client-focused at all times.
As JPMorgan continues its growth agenda across Asia, Kwang says the firm is hiring both client-facing and support staff. She says that while there is no common career path, the firm offers a highly respected analyst programme, which is aimed at top undergraduates and young professionals with one to two years of experience. "We also see more new industry joiners coming from investment banks and asset management houses," Kwang says.