Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Acting in the industry's best interests

by Grace Chan

HKIB - Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards
Carrie Leung
Chief Executive Officer
The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers
Photo: Edde Ngan

Annual banking awards reflect a changing wealth management sector in challenging times

The days of lucrative hard sell in the finance industry are over. Instead, financial planners need to earn their clients' trust with a customer-centric approach and good listening skills, using these to help them achieve their wealth management goals. Above all, integrity is vital to maintain productive and ongoing professional relationships.

In its sixth year running, The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards effectively reflects the realities of today's markets, says Carrie Leung, Chief Executive Officer, The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers.

"It was clear during this year's contest that the entrants were well prepared before meeting their clients. Complying with tightened industry regulations, they were careful to remind investors about any risks involved and meticulously explained the issues surrounding potential market volatility," Ms Leung notes.

Stiff competition

This year's awards drew a gratifying number of contestants, all greatly stressing the importance of establishing trust and rapport with customers, says Ms Leung. As in previous years, finalists in Group A (with up to three years of experience) and Group B (with more than three years' experience) demonstrated remarkable professionalism and superb presentation skills, she adds.

"In the newly added Group C category, the contestants were able to understand and meet the needs of high-net-worth customers by providing comprehensive wealth management services. Most importantly, most were able to explain the key points of their proposals in a precise and concise manner within a very short timeframe. This is exactly what they have to do in their real day-to-day work."

After three tough competition rounds, the judges have chosen three finalists in each category and the winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on November 23. The HKIB's guests of honour at this year's event will be Ashley Alder, Chief Executive Officer of the Securities and Futures Commission, and Anselmo Teng, Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Macao. "Mr Alder, who has just recently assumed the position, will be able to share some of the views of the monitoring authority with industry practitioners."

Faced by constantly changing market conditions, financial planners should not try to satisfy their clients' desires indiscriminately when handling their portfolios, Ms Leung stresses. "They should not consider only how to satisfy customers' immediate wishes, but instead provide objective analyses, according to their goals and needs. They must inform investors about the risks involved with every decision, and offer regular follow-ups and reviews."

When markets are fluctuating, professional asset-allocation and rebalancing advice to high-net-worth customers become particularly important, Ms Leung notes. Follow-up services are crucial, she adds. "Planners should stay in regular contact with their clients during bull markets, but they should also step up communication during bear-market periods."

Improving credentials

Recent unstable market conditions have not diminished graduates' interest in joining the financial planning profession, remarks Ms Leung. "In a low interest-rate environment, demands for wealth management services are on the increase. There are still plenty of business opportunities out there. Many institutions are expanding their private-banking businesses to draw more high-net-worth customers. Therefore, more private banking professionals are needed to provide bespoke wealth management services."

Given fresh graduates' relatively limited professional knowledge and life experience, it would not be practical for them to become private bankers straight away, Ms Leung points out. "They can start working as relationship managers in retail banking. With consistent training, they can build a solid foundation and eventually gain the right credentials to become private bankers."

From this year, the HKIB runs an Accredited Banking Practitioner (ABP) examination to help candidates from other industries, as well as undergraduates that would like to enter banking and finance, equip themselves with fundamental industry knowledge. Subjects include banking services and professional ethics, financial systems and risk management, fundamentals in accounting, and law in banking. Once they pass the exams, they will be awarded a diploma in banking and financial services, which makes them eligible to further their studies towards the Associate of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (AHKIB) qualification. Banking or finance graduates may study towards Certified Financial Management Planner (CFMP) accreditation.

The HKIB plans to run additional seminars next year, and will be inviting prominent figures in the sector to be guest speakers, Ms Leung says. "The issues under scrutiny will be those that the sector is most concerned about. For instance, we recently invited representatives from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to address us on regulations and guidelines related to renminbi businesses."

"Practitioners will be able to stay afloat in the face of market changes, and hone their competitive abilities, by updating and upgrading their professional knowledge," she concludes.

Moving forward

  • Good listening skills help practitioners build strong customer relationships
  • Demand for wealth management services is still on the rise
  • New diploma course helps non-banking graduates to join the profession

Taken from Career Times 11 November 2011, A2

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