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Retaining client confidence

Published on Friday, 16 Jul 2010
Standard Chartered Bank values excellence in service for its clients.
Photo: Edward Wong

Faced with higher customer expectations and evolving regulatory requirements, banks and financial institutions are seeking ways to strengthen customer relationships, while improving operational efficiency and employee productivity.

Nita Law, Standard Chartered's regional head of human resources, northeast Asia, says the dynamics of the banking market have changed considerably over the past 18 months, with greater emphasis now placed on deepening customer relationships.

In addition to aligning products and services with customers' aspirations and needs, which have strengthened relationships, Law says Standard Chartered achieves success through operating as a strength-based organisation.

"When we recruit, we look for the right profile that will fit with the culture of the organisation. For example, we would not try to place an employee in a customer-facing position if they prefer a different specialist role," Law says.

This includes strength in management, which is assimilated though all divisions. She says excellence in customer service focuses on the client and their needs, including understanding their goals, risk appetite and helping them select appropriate wealth management tools to fit their immediate and long-term requirements. Law says customer-centric training programmes ensure employees have a comprehensive understanding of products and compliance with industry regulations in addition to Standard Chartered's internal operating policies.

"Employees are only allowed to provide services to customers when they are completely trained and ready. Our robust performance culture and wide range of training programmes also help employees to develop their careers in Hong Kong and across our global network," says Law, who has been with Standard Chartered for more than 20 years, and has worked in India, Singapore and Taiwan, in addition to Hong Kong. Law says multiple career opportunities, performance reviews and positive reinforcement through coaching and mentoring are ways the bank is able to encourage employee loyalty. "There is a strong link between engagement and employee loyalty. We believe engaged employees, who work in a dynamic environment, provide better services to our customers," Law says.

Meanwhile, senior management at ABN AMRO, which recently merged with Fortis Bank to become ABN AMRO Bank, say the merger marks a major milestone and a new beginning that will bring a future with a continued focus on customers.

Paul Schuilwerve, country executive for ABN AMRO in Singapore, says the main trend driving success and expansion in Asia is the growth around the region following the credit crisis.

"The long-term shift in financial power from the West to the East has been accelerated by the financial crisis. This trend is driving our expansion in Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as the re-establishment of our business in China," Schuilwerve says.

He says the firm is seeking professionals who want to succeed and take personal responsibility for their actions. "The new bank's core values serve as our trusted compass and the values we as professionals stand for, and what our customers can build on," he says. These include solid, personal and relationship-oriented services delivered by skilled and  disciplined professionals who are perceptive, motivated, decisive and results-driven.

As banks look for ways to boost client confidence, Kwang Kam-shing, market manager of JP Morgan Private Bank (Hong Kong), believes remaining consistent through different types of economic cycles is one of the best ways to build and maintain trust.

"For instance, JP Morgan Private Bank asked clients to de-risk their positions in November 2007. Also, we do not approve products on our platform if they do not provide reasonable risk reward ratio, and we are very strict when  it comes to monitoring and  making sure investments are consistent with appropriate goals," Kwang says.


He also believes coaching, mentoring and on-the-job training are crucial elements in the development of skills to build strong relationships with clients. Training consists of continuing programmes that include Associates Training Programmes, offered locally, and annual programmes held in New York. New recruits who join as senior advisers also join local training programmes and ones held in New York.

"Our client-facing advisers are well supported by our team of investment and asset class specialists. Through working collaboratively, associates have the opportunity to learn essential skills from our senior bankers. All of our senior management, including our Asia chief executive officer and head of JP Morgan International Private Bank, are engaged with clients. They constantly join us in client meetings and calls, which is another effective way of imparting skills to our client-facing professionals," Kwang says.

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