Wealth of qualifications grows
Hong Kong's vision to become the most competitive and dynamic private banking hub in the Asia region is also creating a demand for recognised qualification programmes that can take the private banking industry forward.
In July, the government modified licensing requirements under the Banking Ordinance to enable a broader range of financial institutions, including private banking specialists, to establish operations in the city. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has also clarified its regulatory stance in terms of who should qualify as private banking customers and how they should be served.
Under the new framework, the HKMA intends to have more emphasis placed on practitioner competency, continuous professional training and adherence to a common set of professional ethical standards.
During his recent Distinguished Speaker presentation to the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB), HKMA chief executive Norman Chan outlined areas that could strengthen the city's attractiveness as a private banking hub.
He said that with more mainland clients opening private banking accounts in Hong Kong, for instance, banks here must have in place a sufficient number of account managers who are professionally competent and linguistically proficient.
"It is hard to imagine that quality service can be provided to a mainland customer who does not speak English or Cantonese if the account manager cannot communicate in Putonghua," Chan said.
According to the 2012 Julius Baer Wealth Report HKIB chief executive officer Carrie Leung says private wealth management is increasingly a knowledge business and requires professionals to understand the individual needs of their clients.
"Qualifications benchmarked against global standards help banking practitioners to understand and meet the need for best practices and ensure professional competence," Leung says, adding that the HKIB is working with other professional bodies to develop more certification programmes.
The Certified International Wealth Manager qualification, offered by the Hong Kong Securities and Investment Institute (HKSI), is a recent market entrant.
The qualification aims to offer high-quality professional training, events and examinations to individuals who are interested in pursuing a career within the financial services industry, including private wealth management.
Even with training available, however, recruitment firms say there is a shortage of competent professionals with the experience to meet industry needs.
To create its own pipeline of certified relationship managers, ABN AMRO's private banking arm has partnered with international business school INSEAD to create a new relationship manager global certification programme. To date, more than 250 relationship managers, including those based in Hong Kong, have completed the programme.