Financial Planning / Wealth Management

A contest of financial minds

by Grace Chan

Carrie Leung, chief executive officer
The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers
Photo: Edde Ngan

Highly regarded industry competition continues to boost Hong Kong's banking sector

Over the past four years, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) played a significant role in promoting the industry and fostering young talent with its successful annual Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards.

"For the fifth year running, the competition is a celebration of key achievements, not only by the HKIB, but also by Hong Kong's banking and finance industry as a whole," stresses Carrie Leung, chief executive officer, the HKIB.

Responding to the latest market trends and developments, the competition is this year introducing a new entry category specifically focused on high-net-worth customers.

"As companies' number of high-net-worth customers increase, the face of wealth management is changing," says Ms Leung. "This emerging group presents great opportunities for financial institutions, with many creating special divisions consisting of teams of private bankers to tend to their specific wealth management needs."

This year's awards will therefore, for the first time, focus on three distinct categories: general wealth management customers (for contestants with less than three years' work experience), general customers (for contestants with more than three years' related experience), and high-net-worth customers, defined as people with more than US$1 million of investment funds.

New challenge

Following its previous success, the competition strives to be increasingly relevant in the current business scenario, points out Ms Leung. "In addition to focusing on clients' different stages in life and corresponding financial needs, this year's awards also look specifically at client segmentation," she adds.

Successful candidates undergo three rounds of assessment. In the first round, they are required to submit written financial planning proposals based on real-life case studies. The panel judges then interview short-listed candidates on their proposals. Those entrants that are selected to move on to the third round are tasked with a final financial planning assignment. They are also tested on their presentation skills, professionalism and industry aptitude during a question and answer session.

The competition judges expect the finalists' ethical and professional standards to be reflected in their oral presentations. Among the attributes that they look for in candidates are a trustworthy attitude, outstanding technical abilities and excellent interpersonal and communication skills.

The assessment criteria for the written financial plan are based on the TRUST model, an acronym that stands for "trusting relationship", "recognising financial position and goals", "understanding financial status", "structuring financial plan" and “timely implementation and management".

Considering that the industry has been significantly transformed since the onset of the financial crisis and is now governed by more stringent rules, the judging panel will be assessing contestants' understanding of the tightened compliance regulations.

Ms Leung notes that since the inception of the competition in 2006, the judges for the final round have included representatives from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. Last year, the HKIB invited Alexa Lam, deputy chief executive officer and executive director of the Securities and Futures Commission, to join the judging panel, giving the competition a keener regulator's perspective. This year, Wan Sin-long, executive director, Board of Directors, Monetary Authority of Macao, will join hands with eleven other panel judges to assess the performance of final round candidates.

"Financial management planners considering enrolling in the competition must come prepared," Mr Leung advises, adding that the changing business environment inevitably means that participants will be confronted by more challenging cases and issues.

Future development

With industry players stepping up training and enforcing new regulatory policies and systems, the wealth management sector is now in better shape than before and geared for further growth, Ms Leung believes.

In another effort to bolster professional development within the industry, the HKIB recently reviewed its Associate of The Hong Kong Institute of BankersTM (AHKIBTM) examination programmes and plans to launch a new specialist diploma in wealth management by the end of this year.

The specialist diploma is equivalent to a master's degree and level six of the Qualifications Framework. "People who complete the specialist diploma can expect to assume a senior management position," says Ms Leung. Since 2008, the AHKIBTM accreditation has been recognised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (CIOBS) as equivalent to its Chartered Banker status.

HKIB members with recognised associate degrees may kick off with the diploma in banking and financial services to obtain fundamental knowledge. Once they have completed this qualification, they will be able to move on to the advanced diploma and, subsequently, to the specialist diploma in their chosen area of credit, treasury, operations or wealth management, explains Ms Leung.

The HKIB's Certified Financial Management PlannerTM (CFMPTM) designation, the only Hong Kong professional qualification subject to a mutual recognition agreement with Certification of China Banking Professional (CCBP) accreditation, has also received industry accolades.

"Branch managers and division heads are increasingly signing up for the CFMPTM programme to expand their knowledge and skills repertoire, not only in order to serve their clients better, but also to equip themselves to manage teams of relationship managers."

Referring to the framework agreement recently signed by Hong Kong and Guangdong on increased cooperation between the two jurisdictions, Ms Leung says closer collaboration in the financial services area will further strengthen Hong Kong's position as a leading international finance centre.

"In the meantime, the HKIB will adhere to its role as a catalyst to examine, uphold and enhance the professional banking standards both in Hong Kong and Guangdong," Ms Leung concludes.

Join the race

  • Annual industry competition incorporates new entry categories
  • Judges to assess contestants' understanding of tightened compliance regulations
  • Established assessment model offers point of reference
  • New diploma examination structure to boost banking professional competence

Taken from Career Times 7 May 2010, A2

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