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Phone banking offers financial career entry
John Cremer
update on Saturday, August 27, 2011
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Changing patterns of customer behaviour mean that major banks are putting new emphasis on their phone banking operations. Account holders may have less need to visit local branches for routine transactions, but it is still important to maintain personal contact with existing clients to resolve problems and, if appropriate, suggest investment ideas.

As a result, there is steady demand for young, outgoing candidates keen to learn the banking business and build a long-term career in the sector.

Employers such as HSBC generally promise extensive training, performance-based rewards, and fast-track promotion for individuals who consistently meet targets. This can see new joiners rising to management positions and running their own teams in under four years. And after a certain point, the way is usually open to switch to other areas such as relationship management or branch operations to allow for further career development.

Potential phone banking recruits looking to join one of the larger organisations in Hong Kong should meet certain criteria. Typically, they must be confident about conversing in Cantonese, Putonghua and English, have a positive outlook, and be willing to learn.

When hiring, employers tend to stress that personality can count far more than strictly academic qualifications. Doing well requires an upbeat attitude and the determination to achieve set goals. For example, the performance of those assigned to sales-related duties rather than handling service inquiries, will be gauged against clear weekly or monthly targets.

To give the requisite support, major banks can be expected to arrange up to four weeks' induction training. This will cover key features of their main investment and insurance products, as well as basic banking procedures and preparation for any necessary licensing examinations.

Tailoring things for phone banking recruits, there are also likely to be numerous role plays. These introduce a range of common situations and show how best to deal with different types of customers. There is a need for excellent listening skills and ways to develop a conversation.

Obviously, these are the key skills for anyone whose success largely depends on discerning likely customer needs, defining them more closely, and then discussing investment options.

For many applicants, phone banking is drawing more attention as the area to kick off a career in finance. Comprising mainly under-30s, the work environment is friendly, fast-moving and supportive. And in most organisations, incentive schemes are tied to results, meaning that ambition and ability are more likely to get their due rewards.

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