Annual awards underscore financial trends
by Nicolette Wong
Fast-paced change and challenge are constantly reshaping Hong Kong's increasingly regulated finance sector, driving businesses and practitioners in the field to seek continuous enhancement in more aspects than one, including by and large products, expertise, service, as well as image.
In view of this, The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (the HKIB) has over the years retained its instrumental role in promoting best practice and professionalism in the banking and finance industry. Its annual HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards, which is now in the seventh year's running, maintains a high level of relevance to professional development needs, business trends and changing customer preferences.
"The judging panel comprises industry veterans who see that the competition reflects market trends and challenges," notes Carrie Leung, chief executive officer of the HKIB.
In recent years, the mushrooming number of high net worth individuals from across the Chinese border constitutes a major change in Hong Kong's banking and finance industry with key players in the field paying premium to recruit qualified personnel and bring them up to speed with stringent industry requirements.
"In addition to quality products with potential returns, high net worth investors expect above-par services from their relationship managers," says Ms Leung. "Apart from personalised investment solutions, they may also require services like mortgages as well as long-term financial planning products such as trust funds. Relationship managers nowadays must be able to demonstrate a broad scope of knowledge and superior interpersonal skills," she adds.
Part of the institute's effort in ensuring this included the 2010 inception of a third competition category in the HKIB Awards, which examines contestants' capacity in dealing with high net worth customers, alongside a category for junior planners and another for their more experienced counterparts.
Nowadays, major banks and financial institutions are stepping up investment in talent development in a bid to tap the increasing business opportunities brought forth by the phenomenal growth of mainland China's banking industry which has been quick to gain prominence on the global stage.
In response to the Hong Kong government's plan to establish Hong Kong into a premier offshore Renminbi centre, the HKIB organises an array of related training programmes. Its banking conference in September this year also carried a Renminbi focus.
Ms Leung observes that more small- and medium-sized mainland companies are turning to Hong Kong financial institutions for services like capital management, investments and loans.
Over the years, the HKIB has developed a number of China experts and fostered good relationship with regulators on the mainland. Aside from this, the institute administers professional qualifications such as Certified Professional in Wealth Management (CPiWM) and Certified Financial Management Planner (CFMP) which include modules about the Chinese banking and finance industry. The study path towards the sought-after Associate of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (AHKIB) designation also includes an elective course of Banking Industry and Regulations in Mainland China.
While regulatory bodies such as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (the HKMA) maintain close coordination with banks and financial institutions in a move to raise the standards and conduct of the city's private bankers and financial planning practitioners alike, the HKIB, often joined by other industry institutions, strives to enhance the Hong Kong public's understanding of the role of the finance industry through a wide range of communication initiatives including exhibitions and seminars.
The financial planning profession, meanwhile, has been thriving due primarily to the support of the regulatory authorities and industry institutions, especially with the continuous rollout of new regulations and training requirements for relevant qualifications. The HKMA, for instance, last year issued a supervisory policy manual, which governs, or in other words, raises the bar of competence and ethical behaviour of financial planning practitioners in order to protect the interest of people on both ends of the service equation.
As the HKMA sets out to develop Hong Kong into a regional private banking centre, Ms Leung says that the industry is working on facilitating growth through product innovation and talent development.
"To navigate the increasingly regulated environment, continuous education is vital," she stresses. As such, the HKIB holds a variety of public training programmes on industry regulations, compliance issues, as well as product trends like the development of FX trade settlement, to help Hong Kong's financial planners to keep abreast of market developments.
For this year's contestants in the HKIB Awards, Ms Leung offers a word of advice: "Stay close to the market and be prepared to challenge yourself and be challenged by the panel judges," she says.
In collaboration with the Hong Kong Securities and Investment Institute and the Treasury Markets Association, the HKIB is launching a new professional qualification for private bankers in Hong Kong. "The new qualification stands testimony to the holders' competence and helps to establish Hong Kong as an international financial hub for people looking for top-notch private banking services," Ms Leung remarks. "In a world-class economy like Hong Kong, it is of utmost importance to maintain a talent pool for market expansion since it takes time for young bankers to grow into truly competent professionals with the right expertise, knowledge, interpersonal skills and personality attributes."
Taken from Career Times 26 October 2012, P4
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