WHILE doing online research for her final-year project, Ms Luo Yanqi chanced upon a recruitment ad for the post of personal banking associate.

The graduate with a second upper class honours from Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information followed her heart and applied for the job.

She says: “I knew I wanted to join the banking sector. It was the only job I applied for then and I was very lucky to have secured it. My decision has been proven right as I’m still enjoying my job after five years.”

Today, Ms Luo, 27, has risen up the ranks to become assistant vice-president, Premier Banking, in The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC).

Supported by a team of service managers and a panel of specialists, Ms Luo manages a portfolio of clients. As a personal banking associate, she also assists to mentor a team of relationship managers while being involved in product development initiatives and related projects.

As with all endeavours, it was tough at the beginning. She even considered throwing in the towel. Fortunately, strong encouragement from her mentors got her back on track.

She says: “They took time to share their experiences and helped me focus on the bigger picture of the things I have to do and to do them right, instead of being discouraged by short-term obstacles.”

Ms Luo had just progressed to a relationship manager then which required a much more dynamic skill-set compared to her previous role as a wealth manager serving walk-in clients.

Her greatest challenge lies in delivering her promise to customers despite an ever-changing economic climate.

She says: “It’s easy to get disheartened when we encounter difficult customers or challenging financial market situations.

“A healthy dose of positivity goes a long way in this job.”

The skills she learnt in school came in useful to close any communication gaps with clients from different backgrounds or generations.

“I have to be highly versatile in my communication style due to the diversity of clients. It’s important for me to really listen and identify what works for my customers and to adapt my style to suit their needs,” she says.

A typical day is a whirlwind of client appointments and follow-up.

She begins her day with a team meeting, clearing e-mails and catching up on financial news. She checks her contact strategy plan for the day’s activities and transaction deals due and calls her clients to update their portfolios, followed by e-mail proposals in the afternoon. 

Appointments are arranged back to back, scattered through the day. Then she returns to her office to clear more e-mails and to follow up on customers’ requests.

Evenings are spent at seminars, training or customers’ events. She winds down the day by spending time with her family and checking on the American markets.

To cope with the demands of her job, Ms Luo counts on her team members.

“As I am often in appointments with clients, I rely heavily on the dedicated support of my team of specialists and service managers. This ensures that our customers’ needs are always met in a timely manner,” she says.

Learning and sharing of information are encouraged.

“We share openly about best practices and constantly consult each other for ideas on customer issues and investment opportunities for clients’ portfolios. The office is always bustling with activity, and we often wrap up the week with Friday night drinks.”

Work satisfaction also comes from knowing she has made a difference to her client’s lives.

“Establishing meaningful relationships with my customers reminds me that I’m part of something bigger, and making a difference to people’s lives. It’s rewarding when customers become friends and you become part of their lives, attending their housewarmings, weddings, welcoming a new baby,” she says.

If you’re looking for a high-flying career, banking is for you, says Ms Luo.

“In recent years, the banking industry has evolved to value meritocracy a lot more and it is not uncommon for young executives to take on bigger roles because they have proven their competence.”