China is putting in a monumental effort to make its banking industry more sophisticated, introducing reforms that acknowledge the understanding that a strong financial system is key to sustainable growth.
Hong Kong, with its close proximity and traditional Chinese ties, not to mention its status as an international financial centre, is well placed to play a leading role in these developments. One area in which Hong Kong can be especially influential is education and training in the banking industry.
The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) has been serving the local banking community since 1963. "We will celebrate our 45th anniversary next year," says Carrie Leung, chief executive officer of the organisation. "We are proud of our history and of being the cradle of professional bankers in Hong Kong."
The HKIB is heavily involved in helping the Education Bureau (EDB) prepare the Specification of Competency Standards (SCS) for the banking industry in the Qualifications Framework (QF) of Hong Kong. The QF is a set of principles and guidelines providing a vision and a hierarchy for the establishment of a qualifications system. It includes competency standards which define the skills and knowledge required to operate effectively in a particular role. "We have been conducting industry-wide consultations, involving more than 150 senior management and frontline personnel, to gather expert comments for the QF preparation. We believe the QF is vital for human capital development. It expresses the best practice in a certain role, thus helping raise the professional status of Hong Kong bankers and consolidating Hong Kong's position as a global financial centre," Ms Leung says.
The institute is the only provider of recognised banker professional qualifications in Hong Kong. It provides a comprehensive array of training programmes and qualifications covering different banking essentials including Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes, Continuous Professional Training (CPT) programmes, certificate courses, seminars and workshops. "Some of our programmes are offered in collaboration with local universities. The universities provide academic expertise while we possess the latest industry know-how. Such partnerships are crucial to effective learning," Ms Leung explains.
The HKIB is also the conferring body of the CFMPTM (Certified Financial Management Planner) designation, an industry recognised qualification in financial planning. To obtain the qualification, one must complete the CFMPTM programme offered by the HKIB with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) being the academic advisory organisation. The programme unprecedentedly combines banking elements, banking law, banking products and services. The banking and financial industry is facing a manpower shortage due to the rapid expansion in the financial planning sector and, Ms Leung says, the HKIB is working hard to ease this problem by providing more relevant and recognised educational programmes.
Knowledge and expertise
With market liberalisation provisions for banking included in the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), cross-boundary cooperation is increasing, especially in the areas of knowledge transfer and training. Moreover, the situation on the mainland is similar to Hong Kong in that there are not enough qualified individuals to meet the demands of the growing banking sector. To counter this, the HKIB has been arranging seminars and training programmes on the mainland, and has also organised two-way study tours between the two locations. The advantages of the study tours are two-fold since participants can benefit from the learning opportunities and extend their business networks.
Furthermore, the HKIB provides a neutral platform for communications between the banking sectors in Hong Kong and the mainland. "We have full support from the local banking and financial institutions because all our council members are prominent personalities in the field. This is a significant strength because their knowledge, experience and connections are invaluable assets for the organisation. On top of this, they are practitioners so they understand thoroughly what the industry needs. In addition, both bankers and regulators serve on our council so our opinions are objective. The mainland authorities recognise that Hong Kong's banking system is well developed. We can therefore facilitate the exchange of international experience with the mainland to help its banking sector foster operational efficiency," Ms Leung says.
In view of the increasing economic integration, the HKIB is also pushing forward mutual recognition of qualifications between Hong Kong and the mainland. "This is one of the priorities of our organisation. We hope this can ease the problem of talent shortage and increase the exchange of expertise," Ms Leung adds. "After all, China needs a modern banking system as it enters the world market and we can all benefit from this."