Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Annual awards keep industry's health in check

Candidates for the sixth Hong Kong Institute of Bankers Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards have clear client focus, reports Nicolette Wong

Hong Kong's banking and finance industry has seen its fair share of ebbs and flows over the years with key players in the field now paying extra attention on talent management and career progression in a bid to safeguard their hard-earned reputation and the best interest of increasingly discerning customers from Hong Kong, mainland China and across the globe.

The need for professionalism has never been greater since the inception of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards. This annual event and its three categories of awards, signify the professional prowess and credential necessary for individuals working in the financial planning field in different stages of their career life, and put on-going professional development in the limelight.

Every year, the HKIB Awards gathers a distinguished panel of judges drawn from respected banking and finance institutions, regulatory bodies from Hong Kong and Macau and Hong Kong's academia. Top awards will only go to the most deserving Awards candidates who are able to fulfil a lengthy list of criteria and exceed the expectation of these industry-savvy panellists.

HKIB Awards Judge - Kalok Chan
Kalok Chan, Head and Professor
Department of Finance, School of Business and Management
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Continuous enhancement

Hailed as an international financial hub, Hong Kong retains its global presence today thanks primarily to its Chinese parentage, alongside the city's well established financial system, as well as stringent ethical conducts.

Kalok Chan, Head and Professor, Department of Finance, School of Business and Management, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, believes that the high-profile industry events like the HKIB Awards underscore the level of integrity which members of the city's financial management profession can proudly demonstrate. "The Awards candidates by and large possess a plethora of customer servicing techniques plus a comprehensive range of market intelligence," adds Professor Chan.

He points out that this annual event is an excellent platform for financial planners to rejuvenate and further develop their expertise so that they will continue to contribute to the wealth management community in Hong Kong.

The newly introduced Group C Award category since last year proved a great success. A second-time judge for the Awards, Professor Chan remarks that it takes a much wider scope of expertise for financial planners to satisfy the more sophisticated requirement of high net worth clients, who expect personalised solutions for managing their assets as well as risks.

"People that look to build a fruitful career in the competitive industry must expand their knowledge of the various facets of wealth management," he advises.

HKIB Awards Judge - Nixon Chan
Nixon Chan
Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management
Hang Seng Bank Limited
A quest for excellence

The HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards reinforces the drive for quality and professionalism across the banking and financial services industry, says Nixon Chan, Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Hang Seng Bank Limited.

Mr Chan was impressed by the Awards candidates' sincerity, commitment and positive attitude. He notes that they also showed a genuine concern for and a firm grasp of a client's circumstances and long-term goals during the final oral presentation session.

While all of the finalists displayed a high level of confidence and professional skills, he says, some of them demonstrated an exceptional flair for persuasive communication. "They showed that they were able to explain a financial plan in an accessible manner and from the client's perspective," he adds.

Mr Chan remarks that the annual HKIB Awards promotes the sustainable development of Hong Kong's financial planning industry. "The benchmarking event encourages banks to step up employee training and development, while financial management professionals in turn are sufficiently motivated to go the extra mile for their employers, clients as well as their careers," he says.

HKIB Awards Judge - Andy Hon
Andy Hon
Head of Retail Distribution
HSBC Hong Kong
Integrity, knowledge and flexibility are the keys to success

Banking customers nowadays expect personalised financial solutions from their planners, observes Andy Hon, Head of Retail Distribution, HSBC Hong Kong. He adds that aspiring professionals in the field must therefore learn to exercise flexibility, keep learning different investment products and embrace best practice. "They need to understand their clients' financial needs and work with them to achieve their wealth management objectives."

In a bid to exceed customer expectation, local financial institutions are pulling out all the stops to diversify the range of their products and services in order to allow customers to choose investment portfolios which suit them most. Mr Hon says that as Hong Kong's wealth management industry continues to capitalise on the booming Chinese economy and the preferential policy deployed to develop Hong Kong as an offshore RMB centre, there are promising prospects for young people looking to tap into the field.

The key to career success is to pursue professionalism and integrity, he notes. One of the panel judges for the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards, Mr Hon says this annual event helps to uphold the reputation of the wealth management profession. "The Awards candidates are fine examples of outstanding professionals who have what it takes to propel the industry forward towards excellence," he adds.

HKIB Awards Judge - Sermon Kwan
Sermon Kwan
Chief Executive, Greater China Region
Bank of Singapore
All-round talent

This year's HKIB Awards finalists showed a high levels of professional competence, particularly in financial analysis, points out Sermon Kwan, Chief Executive, Greater China Region, Bank of Singapore.

A private banker that serves financially literate high net worth clients, Mr Kwan notes, is expected to be versed in various areas related to the financial field. Aside from having the necessary market intelligence, they must also have the ability to consider varied aspects of their clients' current financial situations and future agendas.

While the Awards finalists by and large demonstrated excellent interpersonal and presentation skills during the presentation, Mr Kwan advises that they should continue to polish their skills, acquire new ones and grow their knowledge bank in order to exceed higher customer expectation. "It is also important that younger financial management professionals learn to balance and explain to the clients their wealth management goals and market realities," he says. "A comprehensive financial plan should prioritise recommendations based on the clients' needs at their different stages of life. It is always more important to provide solutions than to push sell products."

He believes that Hong Kong's financial planning professionals have the agility to adapt to the fast-transforming financial environment. "I am confident that they will be able to contribute to the well-being of the industry in the long term," Mr Kwan says.

HKIB Awards Judge - David Kwok
David Kwok
Managing Director and Chief Executive
Shanghai Commercial Bank
Credentials stand for quality

This year's HKIB Awards hopefuls demonstrated superior analytical skills and dedication to the sustainable development of Hong Kong's wealth management industry, says David Kwok, Managing Director and Chief Executive of Shanghai Commercial Bank.

Mr Kwok, a first-time judge for the Awards, was most impressed by the candidates' expertise and professional attitude. In addition to having broad knowledge in financial products, regulatory requirements and market trends, they are also commended for their acumen in formulating and presenting sound financial solutions.

"These sharp and intelligent individuals showed me and my fellow judges their ability to evaluate and take into account the potential impact of various solutions on a financial plan as well as on a client's situations, with good judgement and insights," he remarks.

Aside from this, Mr Kwok adds, the candidates also showcased above-par presentation skills from excellent training. He believes the candidates' outstanding performance essentially reflects the industry's key emphasis on professional credentials and qualifications such as the HKIB's Certified Financial Management Planner (CFMP) accreditation.

"I believe that this cadre of young financial professionals will have a lot to contribute to the development of the wealth management industry in the long term," he says.

HKIB Awards Judge - Francis Liu
Francis Liu
Managing Director and Regional Market Manager, Hong Kong
UBS Wealth Management, UBS AG

Setting the bar high

Wealth management profession in Hong Kong benefits greatly from the city's proximity to mainland China where an increasing number of affluent clients are keener than ever to learn more about the global markets and to capitalise on the expertise of Hong Kong's banking and finance professionals, says Francis Liu, Managing Director and Regional Market Manager, Hong Kong, UBS Wealth Management, UBS AG.

With this in view, players in the city's banking and finance industry have been pulling out all the stops to add variety to their product portfolios while making continuous investment in maintaining a strong talent pipeline. "It all comes down to having the right people who are capable of making a contribution to the business and the future development of the industry," Mr Liu remarks.

He believes that the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers has over the years helped raise the standards of the industry through a number of professional training and development initiatives, as well as major events like the annual HKIB Awards. "The Awards, in particular, promote and provide opportunities for professional advancement. The success of the event also lies in its ability to bring the whole industry together," he notes.

HKIB Awards Judge - Fanny Lum
Fanny Lum
Director of Branch Banking
Citibank Hong Kong
Golden chance

Buoyed by the rapid economic development of mainland China, Hong Kong's wealth management industry will continue to grow. In respond to this, the city's banking and finance institutes will need to step up human resources.

As Fanny Lum, Director of Branch Banking, Citibank Hong Kong says, the HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards provides just the right platform for banking employers to showcase their best practice in talent development.

She adds that the high-profile industry event also serves as an excellent opportunity for Awards candidates to reassess their skills repertoire, refresh their competence and knowledge, and more importantly, to take a closer look at various aspects of the wealth management profession.

"The candidates demonstrated superior interpersonal skills. They were able to explain complicated financial solutions and convinced members of the judging panel of their ability," Ms Lum notes.

A holistic approach to wealth management and client servicing is the key to success in the highly competitive banking and finance industry, she emphasises. "I am very pleased with the performance of this year's Awards candidates. They have proved themselves worthy of praise not only from the judging panel but also from their employers and clients," she concludes.

HKIB Awards Judge - Raymond So
Raymond So
Dean, School of Business
Hang Seng Management College
Igniting creativity

The annual HKIB Awards gives recognition to outstanding wealth management professionals and helps to raise public understanding and awareness of the industry, says Raymond So, Dean, School of Business, Hang Seng Management College. "All this underscores the importance of professional development and contributes to the sustainability of the financial planning profession," he adds.

Mr So, who is on the judging panel for the sixth year, notes that this year's Awards candidates possess praiseworthy analytical ability as well as presentation skills. In particular, the Group C candidates who are typically savvy private bankers, showed exceptionally technical competency and demonstrated their solid and diverse experience accumulated over the years. He cautions however that financial planners must pursue further development and adopt a comprehensive outlook on the wider industry in order to help their clients to plan their wealth with creativity and flexibility.

In addition to company training, opportunities for idea exchange such as the HKIB Awards can also enhance the competence of financial advisors. "During the Awards' Q&A session, members of the judging panel put the finalists through their paces. The session also gave them an excellent chance to reassess their technical competence, market knowledge and thinking process as a trusted partner of their clients," Mr So says.

HKIB Awards Judge - Wan Sin-long
Wan Sin-long
Executive Director and Board of Directors
Monetary Authority of Macao
Thinking beyond borders

In recent years, an increasing number of financial professionals from Macau are looking to obtain Hong Kong qualifications and benchmark the service levels between the two regions, notes Wan Sin-long, Executive Director, Board of Directors, Monetary Authority of Macao.

Mr Wan, a second-time judge for the HKIB Awards, remarks that the Group A candidates, who have up to three years of experience in the competitive financial planning industry, showed great promise. He points out however that the fast-changing nature of the industry will require them to push the envelope.

"When conducting financial analysis for clients, for instance, they will need to take into account market changes and the clients' long-term financial goals and objectives for the plans. They must also be prepared to explain their proposals in a way that is easily understood because not all clients possess the same level of financial literacy as they do," Mr Wan says. "Professionals in the field should also ensure that they understand the regulatory requirements not only in word but more importantly in spirit and make sure that they fully comply with these in their daily activities."

Mr Wan believes that the annual Awards promote healthy exchange between financial planning professionals in Hong Kong and Macau and help to enhance the level of professionalism across regions. "The quality of financial services will surely foster the future development of the financial industry," he adds.

HKIB Awards Judge - Jason Yeung
Jason Yeung
Deputy Chief Executive
Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited
Stimulus for growth

The rapid and continuous accumulation of capital in mainland China in recent years stimulates the growth of financial planning professionals in Hong Kong, says Jason Yeung, Deputy Chief Executive, Bank of China (Hong Kong). Sound knowledge of the relevant laws and regulations in the industry are therefore required under the stringent regulatory environment in Hong Kong.

As mainland investors' appetite for alternative and more sophisticated financial products grows, Hong Kong's financial institutions are training their sights on gearing up their wealth management staff in a bid to capitalise on future opportunities. "The Hong Kong financial market is known for its excellent variety of innovative financial products, diverse wealth management solutions and professional expertise. We expect the increasing number of well-heeled customers from the mainland will continue to bank on Hong Kong's rich experience in the global investment market," he remarks.

In Mr Yeung's views, the competition for HKIB Awards has raised the profile of the overall wealth management industry in Hong Kong. "This annual event gives heavy emphasis on the Awards candidates' all-round competence, interpersonal skills and integrity. This has driven them to outperform themselves as well as their counterparts."

He adds that this year's Awards hopefuls showed a deep understanding of the financial market's development, as well as that of their clients' needs and interests. "They also demonstrated the ability to guide their clients towards fulfilling their long-term financial plans via meticulous asset analysis and risk tolerance assessment, catering to the financial planning needs of their clients," he concludes.

HKIB Awards Judge - Arthur Yuen
Arthur Yuen
Deputy Chief Executive
Hong Kong Monetary Authority
Stellar development

By participating in highly regarded events like the HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards, professionals in the banking and finance industry can put their capability to the test while helping to promote best practice towards the industry's future development. Six-time judge for the annual HKIB Awards, Deputy Chief Executive of Hong Kong Monetary Authority Arthur Yuen this year sat for the first time on the judging panel judge for Group C Awards candidates—financial planners with substantial experience in serving high net worth clients. He was impressed by the thorough preparation of the candidates.

"High net worth clients typically have very specific financial goals and priorities in financial management," Mr Yuen says. "This makes the role of a financial planner a challenging one."

From a regulatory perspective, Mr Yuen states that a financial management proposal should aim for balance between risk and return, to ensure that the mix of products and solutions are suitable for the client's tolerance for risk. He points out that people in the financial field have developed higher awareness of risk management since the financial crisis in 2008, although there is a need for higher sensitivity towards the recent volatility in the market. Financial management professionals should take stronger initiative to address risk management related issues.

Taken from Career Times 2 December 2011, A2, A4, A6

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