After two rounds of keen competition, six finalists have been selected for the first Outstanding Financial Planner Awards.
The competition, which is jointly organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) and Career Times, attracted over 200 entries from financial planners working with banks, insurance companies and independent financial advisories in both Hong Kong and Macau. Entrants were split into two groups, depending on whether they had more or less than three years' industry experience, and the best of the best have now emerged.
As it happens, the six finalists all work for banks, but Carrie Leung, the HKIB's chief executive officer emphasises that this is just a coincidence — the judges assessed each candidate's ability as a financial planner, not their knowledge of banking. In fact, the judging panels were deliberately made up of professionals from different backgrounds in academia, the broader finance sector and with various regulatory authorities.
"The regulators generally focus on the ethical and professional standards of candidates, while the academics can judge their understanding of the conceptual framework, and the industry representatives can determine whether the financial plans presented are feasible from a practical point of view," Ms Leung explains.
She adds that each panel is asked to judge the candidates' level of expertise, as well as to review their recommendations and performance from the client's perspective. To ensure the process is as fair as possible, a judge would never assess a contestant who worked for the same organisation.
The last round of the competition was completed in mid-October and was based on a case study of a middle-class family in Hong Kong.
Based on the information provided, candidates had to submit a written financial plan and later give an oral presentation to support it. The two parts counted, respectively, for 40 and 60 per cent of the total mark, with the written section specifically testing technical knowledge and the presentation soft skills and quick thinking.
All six finalists showed they had mastered the best practices of financial planning. "They all had a systematic approach and did a very detailed and comprehensive analysis of the case," says Ms Leung.
She also notes that the finalists displayed clarity of thought, excellent interpersonal skills and a high level of self-confidence.
The final results will be announced at a special dinner on 31 October. The Grand Awards will be presented to the winners of the two categories and a Gold Award to the other finalists. Also, the 12 contestants who made the second round will receive Silver Awards, and 22 contestants who performed commendably in the first round will be presented with a Certificate of Merit.
The chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Joseph Yam, will be guest of honour and present the awards, while special guest Liu Zhangjun, executive vice president of the China Banking Association, will deliver a speech on the regulatory mechanism for personal financial planning on the mainland.
Everyone who took part in the competition and all HKIB members are invited to attend the event which, Ms Leung says, will also be a great opportunity for networking and exchanging ideas.
She believes the competition has won the support of the entire industry and has helped to enhance professional standards in the financial planning sector.
The HKIB already incorporates best industry practices in its own training programmes and, in future, will also include new elements learned from the performances of this year's outstanding financial planning practitioners.
Based on needs
According to Ms Leung, the key to being a good financial planning professional is to be focus on building relationships and to give advice that is needs-based, rather than product-orientated. She thinks that financial institutions should emphasise this in their training programmes.
The HKIB's Certified Financial Management Planner qualification is a professional designation which does exactly that. It consists of seven subjects including the essentials of banking and financial planning, and is the first programme of its kind in Hong Kong to cover banking law and the full range of banking products and services related to wealth management.