Financial Service Management: A Development Plan and Reflective Report
Part A: Development Plan
Since high school I have always wanted to work in a career that involves interacting with people rather than technical jobs where one deals with machines. After seeing many people suffer losses during the financial crisis my desire to work in financial institutions became more invigorated and since joining college I have set my mind to pursue a career in banking customer service as an advisor. Most families were ill informed and advised about market conditions and how to avoid suffering huge losses. As a bank customer service advisor, I will be better positioned to promote financial literacy among individuals to enhance their financial management and investment through quality and informed financial advisory. Normally, banking customer service advisors perform various duties including; one, handling customer complaints by responding to them on a timely basis and to the delight of customers. Two, involves advising customers on the suitability of various financial products that suits their conditions. For example, those leaving college will be best suited for a private pension plan as opposed to proposing the same to retirees. Three, a bank customer service advisor provides feedback to the management to help them in improving their services for customer satisfaction. The job also involves providing desk service roles as front-line service providers to enhance customer satisfaction (Knapp 2009).
To adequately perform this function, one needs to have certain skills like good people skills, critical thinking and good problem solving skills. Personal confidence, self management and interpersonal communication skills to present ideas, a good listener and ability to deal with difficult clients also come in handy. Unfortunately for me I have not been a good listener and often jumped into conclusions before getting to the core of the matter. At times I can be temperamental a situation that makes it hard for me to deal with difficult people. However, I must admit that going through this course and attending several public speaking lectures I have improved on my people skills. The positions for this career are available in commercial banks, micro finance institutions, financial advisory firms, investment banks, pension and mutual funds among others.
A career as a banking customer service advisor requires somebody who is flexible, articulate and one who can handle complex and diverse range of customer issues. As a result, one should be knowledgeable enough about the finance field and therefore one has to read widely and remain afloat the current information. Good understanding of individuals’ temperament and risk profiles also helps in providing the necessary financial advisory. Time management is essential as some customer requests, enquiries and complaints require quick response.
Having noted the requirement for this job and realized my weaknesses I have embarked on a number of activities and action plans that have yielded good results in that direction. I must admit that using the skills set and behavior toolkit developed by Chapman (2006) was a major turning point as I was able to objectively evaluate my strengths and weaknesses in line with required skills for a career as a customer advisor. From this assessment, I developed a work plan to address my weaknesses. Generally, my weaknesses included; limited financial knowledge, a poor listener and negotiator, non-team player and difficulties in managing stress and conflicts. For example, I noted earlier in college that I was never interested in group assignments preferring to work alone. I only came to realize the benefits of teamwork when I started seriously engaging in group assignment especially for this course. I also had the know-it all attitude which prevented me from listening to others properly and often jumping into conclusions without understanding what the real problem was. I remember during the financial crisis I was watching the news and saw families recounting their ordeals on losses of their homes and pensions and thought they were just not smart only to later learn that even investment banks and fund managers lost their investments meaning the problem was more than financial literacy. On the other hand, my strengths include; assertiveness, ability to develop mutual trust, flexibility, time management, dedication and passion in what I do. Looking back at my education background I can say am good in time management as I complete my assignments in time and fulfils the plans I set to achieve. I can recall with delight the progress I have made since designing a plan of action on how to improve my weaknesses and the indicators of success. I have managed to keep track of this plan and have seen improvements in my main areas of weakness.
In addition, I have been working on a number of ways to develop the necessary skills for a career in banking customer service advisory. My personal development strategies are contained in an action plan that I developed to run until completion of my college education that targets all areas of weaknesses as well as reinforcing the strengths. The action plan has clearly defined benchmarks and key indicators that help me to monitor and track progress made without digressing from the time frames. For example, to improve my financial literacy I have been reading financial journals and magazines regularly from the library as well as case studies of successful individuals in finance industry. Reading personal success books like Covey’s (2003) 7 habits of highly effective people has helped me to become a good self manager. To prepare myself for roles ahead I have also been reading customer service and front office service operation books. Through this strategy I have been able to understand the work environment and know what to expect and what is required of me to make a successful career in banking advisory. Cooperating in group assignment has helped to improve my people skills, negotiation, listening and team spirit. Teamwork has also helped me to have a broader approach to problems since contributions from different group members to a problem shows that a particular problem can be addressed from perspectives. This improves one’s critical thinking abilities and provides multi-faceted problem diagnosis approaches.
Part B: Reflective Report
Success is what differentiates those that achieve their goals, overcome challenges and those that have no goals to achieve or lack success skills. Before this course, my approach to success was not clear because I lacked principles and practices of highly successful individuals. I used to set vague goals in my mind which I often failed to achieve and this situation needed remedy. During the course I read books on personal success approaches that have helped me to have better approaches to success. For example, Covey’s (2003) 7 habits of highly effective people totally changed by focus on success. Redman (1995) teachings on achieving personal success were also an eye opener. Case reviews of successful people in finance like Warren Buffet have helped to understand that success involves planning and visualizing end results. SMART goals concept helped developing clear road map to success (O’Neill and Conzemius, 2006). To change the situation I used my personal values of dedication and flexibility. Use of skills set and behavior assessment toolkit has helped to rank and identity essential and desirable skills for success. I have now developed an action plan addressing my weaknesses in listening, financial understanding and team spirit.
Effectiveness in People Skills
Success is seldom an individual’s effort but often involves working with others. I must admit that going through this course have to improve my people and personal skills. Before the course I had poor listening abilities, not a team player, challenges dealing with difficult people and poor negotiation skills. These weaknesses watered down my strengths of being assertive and developing mutual trust. Contrary to my past, I have improved in contributing to teamwork that we had during the course. I have also noted that by learning to listen, I have become a better negotiator as I know what to capitalize on in addition to dealing difficult people. In the past I often failed to understand what the problem was with people. Currently, I can comfortably say that I more accommodative of team members which has helped me to learn a lot. In my lower classes I thought I knew more than my classmates but am surprised by what I have learnt from them through listening and being a team player. Chapman (2006) skills set and behavior assessment toolkit used to assess essential people skills at the start helped me to develop an action plan to improve my weak areas with tangible results. However, I still have to work managing stress and conflicts, taking personal responsibility to solve clients’ problems and dealing with difficult people. Listening more and engaging more in team work will help improve my people skills.
To offer any meaningful financial services, one needs to be creative to address problems at hand better than competition to the delight of clients. Before the course I had little understanding what creative thinking entails but going through the topics and thematic case studies I now know what is involved and the dimensions. Individual assignments have helped to develop confidence in personal creativity and using creative thinking strategies by engaging my mind effectively. To generate new ideas I have learnt to look at things from all dimensions, wide spectrum, engage human creativity through intuition, listening and benefits of reading widely (Adrian 2007; Schwenker and Spremann 2009; Shavinina 2003). My weaknesses involved inability to understand the creative process and generating creative ideas. Teamwork and individual assignments have helped me to identify barriers to new ideas, ways of improving confidence and taking the time think over problems than rushing to conclude. I remember during one the individual assignments when fear from within, uncertainty and doubt prevented me from presenting creative work only to realize what was being presented was what I was uncertain. To improve my creative thinking, I have started reading widely, working on my confidence to build confidence and improve on my intuition and logic.
Problem solving and task management
Effectiveness in problem solving calls better approaches to the same, task identification and their management. While I used to jump into solution search without analyzing the source and root cause of the problem, I know have better analytical skills to problem, ability to development action plans and tasks needed to solve problems at hand. Working individually, I have learnt that drawing lessons from failures and successes in past problems that are somehow related helps in getting solutions to problems in a better fashion. While working with my team mates, I have learnt different people view problem differently and provide solutions using different approaches. Through I now appreciate the essence of consultation and assigning tasks to people based on their strengths to solve problems. I had weaknesses on following same approaches to similar problem which at times was not working as times and people behind were different (Aken, Berends and Bij, 2007). I have improved my approaches to problems and psychology behind by drawing vital lessons from Gestalt, puzzle-problem and great-minds approaches to problems (Davidson and Sternberg, 2007). Drawing from Russell (2007), I have better task management strength given that I prefer phased approach to problems where I outline all the activities needed to solve a particular problem. Through this, I have developed timelines and always finished projects on time. However, my weakness in fully identifying the root causes to problems has often led to development of the wrong tasks. The action plan I have developed is helping me to learn complex strategies to problems and problems diagnosis.
Self-management is the foundation of success and financial service management requires individuals to develop habits in line with their traits and personalities. Through the course I have managed to overcome barriers to personal success by addressing the shortcomings in my traits. I have improved my emotional intelligence especially when dealing with others. During my individual assignments I have realized that one’s strength helps in solving the problems. While working with teams, have managed to overcome change management challenges I was not a team player but I have now learnt to manage the change process. Through the course I have learnt better learning styles especially learning from challenges (Sims and Sims, 1995; Iozzi, 2000; and Mabey and Mayon-White, 1993).
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