Ricky Hui's daily routine starts when he's on his way to work. "Keeping ourselves up-to-date with the latest market information is essential in our line of business. My mornings usually start with reading the financial news."
His counterpart Allan Leung describes his average day as "a lot of paperwork, meetings with clients and recruiting new blood". What's so special about Mr Hui and Mr Leung? They are their own bosses.
Allan Leung, nominated principal of Goodwill Strategic Financial, started his career as an accountant. It was only a year ago he realised the great potential in the financial planning industry and that's when he made the decision and the detour.
"People in Hong Kong have not fully grasped the idea of financial planning, which leaves the market wide open to those who have a genuine interest in the industry," he says.
Bringing with him 22 years of banking, accounting and financial services experience, Ricky Hui, who is nominated principal and director of Financial Navigator, agrees. "This is also a multidimensional profession. You have to be able to adapt to change, especially in terms of business initiatives."
In the financial planning business, sincerity and integrity count
Both Mr Leung's and Mr Hui's companies are franchisees of Financial Solutions, a member of Australia's Commonwealth Bank Group. "This franchise model is rather new in Hong Kong and I believe this is going to be the new platform in the financial planning industry. That's why I made the decision to become the boss and not an employee," Mr Leung says. "With the company's reputation, full administration, product and marketing support, all my considerations and needs in starting my own business are met. I can concentrate on developing my own business." Mr Hui adds: "Being a franchisee of Financial Solutions means I genuinely own my business because I keep my own client database, which the company will acquire from me when I retire. Also, with the company's office support, I work to achieve goals without all the hassles."
Both bosses have relatively humble beginnings. To become successful, it takes a great deal of professional expertise, a courageous mind and a lot of patience. Mr Hui recalls that he "needed to submit a detailed business proposal including information from SWOT analysis to recruitment strategy and business projection". He points out that it took him several months to get started. Mr Leung further explains: "The company requires a lot from us in terms of intelligence, qualification and experience. We basically started our own businesses with minimal capital assets, which was a great way of starting a business."
Building up a business is tough and running it smoothly is no easy task either. "Interpersonal skills are important because this is a people-orientated business," says Mr Leung. "You will be successful if only you know how to communicate with people." On the other hand, as Mr Hui stresses, one also needs a solid foundation to begin with. "It's just like Kung Fu. Every move builds on the foundation."
Professionalism is the key
Now a boss in his own right, Mr Hui can enjoy a true sense of financial independence and freedom, and flexibility in terms of time management. "That's the true beauty of it all. The biggest difference between an employed financial planner and a boss is that I'm not selling financial products or following a company's direction but instead I'm offering my advice to meet my clients' needs to create a three-way -winning situation for my clients and my own company as well as for Financial Solutions," says Mr Hui. As for Mr Leung, the job satisfaction lies within the decision making process. "As an employee, there weren't many opportunities for ideas to be heard, let alone be accepted. Sometimes we just need to trust our own hunch, because this is not a job, this is a business."
"I believe that professionalism is the key to the future development of the financial planning industry. People used to show little respect for our profession because we were only 'insurance salesmen'. It's not the same anymore and I'm glad to see how our colleagues work together to make the difference," says Mr Hui. "This is a profession that requires accurate insight and even more professional qualifications, which of course means taking more examinations. It takes time to learn and once you get started, the leaning process never ends. That's what makes the difference."
Having reached the goal doesn't mean staying there forever. In fact, the success stories have just begun for both Mr Hui and Mr Leung. Recruiting business partners to further develop their business capabilities is a top priority at the moment. For Mr Hui, hard work is the key: "Regardless of your academic and career background, the effort you make is the success that you deserve. The day will come when you're telling your own success story."
The financial planning profession has a definite future in Mainland China. Internationally qualified professionals in Hong Kong are ready to take on any challenge in China as they do nowadays in Hong Kong. To those who keep a keen eye on China, it's only a matter of time until the door to the vast market is opened. CEPA will undoubtedly provide many business opportunities for Hong Kong professionals.