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Quality of customer service sets the bar
Published on Friday, 22 Jul 2011
James Hong
Head of private banking - Hong Kong, Credit Suisse

How do you improve the capabilities of your frontline staff?

In Asia-Pacific, where the private banking industry is still young and rapidly expanding, there is a need for permanent education and continuous re-skilling of relationship managers. The quality and skill levels of the frontline staff are some of the most important differentiators in private banking. 

Introduction  

In September last year, Credit Suisse launched its first global Frontline Training and Certification Programme, which aims to support all private banking employees who interact with clients by continuously enhancing their professional skills, knowledge and confidence. It further improves our client-advising capabilities by addressing specific needs of the individual, the market or segment in which our staff operate.

The programme is being consistently rolled out for more than 5,000 frontline staff worldwide. By 2012, all existing client-interacting private banking employees globally will be "Credit Suisse certified". Here in Asia, the programme applies to all assistant relationship managers, relationship managers, team leaders, investment consultants and senior management team members. To date, around 250 employees in the region have been certified.  

The programme

Credit Suisse's Frontline Training and Certification is rigorous and broad in scope. Training may be online or in the classroom. The certification consists of e-tests and a simulated client discussion. The programme focuses on investment topics such as mutual funds, alternative investments, foreign exchange, discretionary mandates, the advisory process and structured derivatives. Non-investment topics such as inheritance planning and the integrated bank are also part of the curriculum.

We offer adult education, which means that everyone is in control of his own personal development. This certification increases the market value of relationship managers and provides them with an excellent platform for a successful career within Credit Suisse or elsewhere.  

Monitoring

Our efforts in frontline training are well-aligned with the Hong Kong Securities Institute's (HKSI) latest initiative to develop a set of competency guidelines for the private wealth management (PWM) industry. The competency guidelines will be launched by the end of this year. At the same time, a set of competency standards will be developed to certify PWM professionals. Representing Credit Suisse as a member of the HKSI's ad-hoc committee for the competency guidelines for the PWM industry in Hong Kong, I believe that higher quality training such as that provided by Credit Suisse in-house or the efforts of the HKSI will help ensure a better quality of services provided to clients, strengthening the trust and confidence clients place in the institution.  

Continuity

The programme is not a one-off initiative. New hires are also required to undergo the programme within nine months of joining the bank in Asia. Skill refresher programmes are offered every three years to maintain the high quality of the skills of our front office staff.

The quality of service that we bring to our clients is one of the most important differentiators in today's highly competitive private banking industry. Organisations that have well-structured and comprehensive in-house training will always stand out against their competitors. After all, if you don't have the right skill set, how can you bring value to the client?  

Feedback

By ensuring that our relationship managers are equipped with the necessary expertise, we can help rebuild trust in the industry. Even though the certification culture is not equally well-developed everywhere, clients can now expect a minimum standard. The certification ensures that relationship managers and our bank are well-prepared to meet clients' needs, and can comply with regulatory requirements to uphold the strong reputation of Credit Suisse.