Money Moves

A new breed of personal financial planner

In the face of increasing customer demand for greater service, insight and professionalism, Hong Kong's personal financial planners are bowing to the need to upgrade, specialise and retrain, writes KS Lau in his bi-weekly column

There is no doubt that the field of personal financial consulting and planning is becoming more competitive than ever. Indeed, clients are now demanding more professional services and knowledgeable personal financial consultants or planners to assist in managing wealth.

In the past, traditional professionals, such as qualified professional accountants and lawyers, might have taken up some of the key responsibilities to help high-net-worth clients manage their personal assets. However, as the world of personal finance and investment becomes ever more complicated, people are seeking more specialised professional advisors who can provide relevant assistance in designing comprehensive wealth and personal risk management plans, as well as other personal financial issues.

While the personal financial planning trend started in the United States and other Western countries, the phenomenon is also growing in Hong Kong, where financial planners are encountering greater expectations from their clients. Today, people do not merely expect to deal with someone who can "sell" them a "plan". They really want to cooperate with reliable and professional consultants who are there for the long term.

To build and maintain their competitiveness in the marketplace, many traditional insurance agents and newcomers are currently having to upgrade their skills and knowledge in order to serve their clients better with comprehensive services and products. Other kindred professionals are also finding it necessary to equip themselves for other disciplines that they may not be sufficiently familiar with, so that they can better serve their clients.

Financial certifications

In Hong Kong, candidates aspiring to obtain a professional financial planning designation have a number of choices. Over 20 certifications exist for the finance-related discipline, the most established of which include:

  • Certified Financial PlannerCM (CFPCM), a qualification that originated in the US but has been modified in accordance with Hong Kong's legal and economic environment;
  • Certified Financial Consultant (CFC), similar to CFPCM;
  • Registered Financial Planner (RFP), a local professional designation focusing on the local legal and business environment;
  • Registered Financial Consultant (RFC), similar to CFPCM and CFC; and
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), an American designation.

Local tertiary institutions have also been supportive of related professional training programmes for professional designations such as CFPCM, CFC and RFC.

The next few issues will explore the above financial planning designations and focus on the various professional bodies which grant them. The financial planning courses offered by Hong Kong's universities and the purpose and benefits of individual programmes will be featured.

K S Lau, MSc, MBA, FCCA, FCPA, CFE. An accountant by profession, Mr Lau is specialised in corporate governance and management development. He is also the co-author of Q&A: Financial Planning Exams, a popular course book preparing students for financial planning examinations. For any enquiries regarding the article, you can contact Mr Lau on

Taken from Career Times 29 August 2003
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