CUSTOMER satisfaction is a top priority at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Corporation Limited (HSBC), which claimed the Best Customer Loyalty Programme Award at the Asian Banker Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards last year.

“Treating the consumer fairly is something we do irrespective of the amount of money the customer has with the bank,” says Mr Sebastian Arcuri, head of Personal Financial Services at HSBC.

“Using the analogy of passengers on a plane, those who pay more get a better level of service, but everyone on board has the right to arrive on time and enjoy a safe journey.”

To maintain the high standards of customer satisfaction, newly recruited relationship managers undergo a mandatory 60-day training stint – regardless of their previous work experience in the financial sector – that leads to an accreditation examination.

“We are a global bank and that means that those who come on board must meet a certain level of competency to comply with international standards,” he says.

This conservative approach resonates with the bank’s Asian roots, he says.

“We celebrate individual success only if it’s a collective winning – if it means the team will do well and the bank will do well.”

As a result, the bank avoids aggressive positions or selling overtly high-risk instruments, strategies that allowed it to ride through the economic crisis of 2008 unscathed.

“Our staff didn’t have to go through the stress that others in the sector might have to face because we sold conservative instruments,” he says.

“We had people coming to us looking for a long-term career because they want to be able to see eye to eye with their customer not only today, but also 10 years down the road.”

As Head of Personal Financial Services (Singapore) and Head of Offshore Banking (South East Asia), Mr Arcuri oversees more than 1,000 employees.

He started his career with HSBC upon clinching a spot in the Management Associate Programme for graduates that puts trainees on rotational postings through the full range of bank operations.

Today, his team consists of a wide range of professionals including relationship managers, marketers, product managers, channel managers and specialists in currency, equities and legacy planning who support the relationship managers.

“The challenge is to be able to handle extremely different types of problems within a short period of time. In a single moment, I may have to deal with a serious client complaint, a big deal that’s closing in, or a new branch that is opening,” he says.

International mobility is a key differentiating factor for HSBC, he says.

The bank has offices in more than 86 countries – impressive coverage that is instrumental in growing its strength in offshore banking for wealthy individuals – and it provides a rich and rewarding global career for its employees.

“International exposure is not perceived as the exception or something extraordinary. In fact, it has become a must for senior management because one must be able to operate in different jurisdictions and transfer the skills from one country to another,” he says.

For example, Mr Arcuri was the Head of Personal Financial Services for HSBC in Korea and Head of Offshore and Premier Banking in HSBC Singapore prior to his current appointment.

The Korean market benefited from the introduction of sophisticated wealth management products first developed in Singapore. On the other hand, the Singapore operations improved its efficiency thanks to Mr Arcuri’s exposure to the tech-savvy Korean culture.

He adds: “I think the fantastic thing about the Personal Financial Services business is the sheer variety of products it covers, from credit cards to investments to mortgage loans.