Money Moves

Changes on the horizon for financial planners

by Carmen To

Sidney Sze, CEO, Midland Wealth Management Limited
Photo: BJ

The financial planning industry in Hong Kong is continuing to evolve and, according to Sidney Sze, CEO of Midland Wealth Management Limited, the current system in Singapore may provide a good indication of how things will develop.

"To enhance professionalism, the industry needs a single set of government-backed regulations which help to promote overall growth," he says. "This happened in Singapore a few years ago and it is what our company would like to see."

Mr Sze adds that another key change would be to make financial planning a profession in which the remuneration for advisers was fee-based, rather than mainly from commission on sales as it is now. Financial planners could charge clients an hourly rate or a fee based on the total assets being invested. Some details would have to be worked out, but Mr Sze believes it is a practical way forward.

In fact, he has already mapped out a "blue ocean strategy" for the company, which takes these possible changes into account. He has also been investigating ways to further develop largely untapped areas of the business, which still offer promising opportunities.

Recently, for example, the company has invested in doing additional research to compare different products and explore possible business partnerships with prestigious firms in Hong Kong. He points out that Midland already has the largest branch network and client database locally, backed up by around 6,000 property agents.

"We have just hired a specialist in product analysis who will help our sales teams to find out what best suits various client needs," Mr Sze says.

The company is also looking to break into the mortgage market and is currently in the process of securing the necessary licence to act as a mortgage broker. At the same time, Mr Sze is discussing possible partnerships with CPA firms in the hope of working on joint projects.

"If we agree a partnership, our financial planners might be able to work with their clients," he explains. "So far, the initial feedback we have received has been very positive."

Soon, details will be finalised for Midland's employees to take a master's degree in wealth management with Middlesex University in the UK. "This will allow them to move up the ladder and will provide a big edge," says Mr Sze. The basic course requirement is to obtain 200 credits but, in certain cases, work experience can actually count for credits.

In giving general industry-related advice, Mr Sze points out the risk of investing in the offshore saving plan (101), which is probably only sold in Hong Kong. This product is not under Securities & Futures Commission supervision and, lately, more complaints have been heard. This illustrates the importance of getting professional financial advice and keeping up to date with developments in the market.

Taken from Career Times 22 September 2006, p. A2
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