Career Advice Recruitment tips

Leading from the front

For those who enjoy providing customer service, are naturally outgoing, and want to work in the financial industry, bank jobs that involve plenty of interaction with customers and co-workers can both be satisfying and offer attractive career-development potential.

Stanley Wong, director and branch manager at ANZ's Nathan Road branch, is mindful of that old adage: You don't get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Wong had always wanted to work in banking, so he studied accounting and finance at Melbourne University in Australia. Having been in the industry for 10 years, he says that now, as a branch manager, he is actually ahead of his original career ambitions. "At this stage, I would say I have advanced a little bit further in my career than I had planned," he says.

Wong says that gets a sense of satisfaction from managing a team that helps customers with their financial needs as well as from setting the customer-service tone. This includes ensuring staff are aware of the latest regulatory and governance issues and talking to clients in detail about their financial and wealth-management requirements.

"Whether interacting with customers or staff, I am always conscious that I work in a 'people' business where I need to use a lot of good judgment in a variety of situations," Wong says. He adds that patience and good listening capabilities are also essential components of a branch manager's skill set.

Wong leads a team of nearly 40 financial advisers and lenders at ANZ's busy Mong Kok branch. His priorities include taking care of customer needs, managing operations, looking after staff and meeting management expectations. "It is sometimes a challenge, but my aim is always to keep everyone happy," Wong says.

Another important part of Wong's work is understanding that clients sometimes become unsettled about their financial and wealth-management decisions. When this happens, a relationship manager refers the client to Wong and he invites them into a conference room and listens carefully to their concerns.

"I had one client who talked for more than three hours, during which time I barely said a word," Wong says. Afterwards, Wong reassured the customer that ANZ would work with him, and together they came to a solution that satisfied the customer.

Working through problematic situations such as these and coming up with appropriate solutions are one of many things that give Wong a sense of satisfaction during an average working day.

Another source of satisfaction is maintaining a high staff-retention record. In a constantly growing sector where attracting top talent is highly competitive, Wong says retaining high-performing employees is a key priority. He credits their low staff turnover to comprehensive training and support and diversified career opportunities offered by ANZ.

Wong takes a personal interest in career development by helping his branch staff plan and execute their career goals, and recommending employees for promotions and new roles. "It is important to remember that every person is different, and has their own ideas and ambitions," Wong says. "I listen to staff and try to help them, and I always ensure they feel respected and valued."

Olivia Lau, relationship director and senior team head of retail sales and distribution onshore sales at ANZ, says much of her job satisfaction comes from being able to meet so many different people every day. "I meet all sorts of people from all over the world and from different backgrounds," Lau says. "It might sound like a bit of a cliché, but if you really do your best to help people, clients do become friends."

Lau began her career as a financial planner in Canada, where she also studied. After moving back to Hong Kong, she worked in high-end merchandising before joining the banking industry. She has since worked for several international banks in the city. "My first banking job was handing out fliers introducing the bank and its services," Lau says. "People said I wouldn't last two weeks."

However, nine years later, thanks to lots of hard work and perseverance, Lau has proved her detractors wrong. At ANZ, she became the bank's top business development officer before moving into a relationship manager's role. Her dedication and performance saw her progress to senior relationship manager, relationship director and team head before moving into her current role.

"We are dealing with customers' finances and their financial futures, so integrity and trust are the top priorities," she says.

With financial uncertainties at the forefront of many clients' minds, Lau says a major part of her job is educating customers and making sure they feel comfortable with their investments. "We always gather information and understand the person's needs and financial objectives before we make any recommendations," she says.

Although e-banking has become popular, Lau says she finds it hard to envision any time in the near future where online banking will replace client and relationship-manager interaction.

"Customers might make transactions online and make straightforward instructions, but when it comes to the big financial decisions, they prefer a face-to-face relationship," she says.



Stanley Wong says that when dealing with customers face-to-face, you must:

ADJUST to an individual and their specific situation

STAY CALM under pressure, regardless of the customer's emotions

DISPLAY ENERGY and enthusiasm in everything you do and say

BE GENUINE in your willingness to help customers with their needs