Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Demand peaks for financial planners

It has become much harder these days to have a crack at a high-paying job in finance and banking, but for individuals just starting their career, opportunities abound in financial planning, writes Rodney Jimenez

Banks, insurance firms and fund managers are always on the lookout for individuals who have the ability to communicate well with affluent clients. The most valuable talent has the knack of giving solid advice on the different financial products available in the market.

A career in financial planning is ideal for individuals who have aggressive selling skills. A good reputation is an asset, since clients will need to put a lot of trust in the individual's judgement.

Given the tough investment environment, many people are worried about how best to preserve or grow their wealth. Financial institutions are constantly innovating and expanding their product range and people have developed a more heightened awareness of the need to diversify their investments be it in insurance, mutual funds or fixed-income investments.

This is where financial planners and advisers come in, says Phil Neilson, Managing Director at ING Financial Planning Limited. "These days, for instance, you hear a lot about capital-guaranteed products, but many affluent households are not sure of how it works" he explains.

ING Financial Planning recruited 30 investment advisers in May and will add another 15 by October. The new hires are considered full-time employees and receive a salary. Starting pay is a generous HK$22,500 per month. The company also grants bonuses and commissions to employees depending on the amount of business they bring into the company.

As a registered adviser with the Securities and Futures Commission, ING Financial Planning positions itself in the market based on the quality of advice it provides, rather than just pushing products. "We provide holistic investment advice," Mr Neilson emphasizes.

William Tung, Regional Managing Director of W Falcon PM Asia Ltd., says the company hired four financial planners this year and plans to hire another five in the next three months. The company recruits every quarter and the numbers hired depend on the prevalent business requirements. Falcon is setting up a new business division next year and will then employ another two to six financial planners.

equirements include tertiary education or the possession of relevant licenses and certificates. Experience in banking and a business back-ground is highly preferred.

The remuneration package is tailor made depending on the individual's experience and seniority, and usually it is in the form of an allowance plus commission but "some people may go straight on commission", says Tung.

He advises can-didates to have a positive attitude and determination, high energy level, and good social and communications skills. They have to have the ability to deal with changes. "The person who can face failure and conquer fear will have a greater chance of success in this industry," Tung concludes.

Hong Kong Wealth Management (HKWM) has launched four recruitment drives this year and another one is now being considered. So far, it has hired 45 wealth managers out of 750 applicants. Wealth managers' basic salary ranges from HK$15,000 to $25,000 depending on experience.

"Our remuneration package is structured as such to ensure unbiased advice is offered to our clients," says HKWM Marketing & Recruitment Director Monica Cheung. Wealth managers' benefits also include a performance bonus, medical and life insurance, MPF, renewal and trail revenue as well as a development bonus, which is focused on personal development and not related to business revenue.

Ms Cheung says each new recruit goes through a five-week training course before they can independently conduct business meetings. The initial training covers everything from financial planning models, investment and insurance options to preparations for the Insurance Inter-mediaries Qualification Examination and the examinations required for the Investment Representative License.

"We train our wealth managers throughout the first six months. Once they become established, they are required to undertake the Diploma of Personal Financial Planning which will lead on to the qualification of Certified Financial Planner (CFP)."

Ms Cheung says well-established wealth managers can expect to receive a higher percentage of renewal and trail revenue and the opportunity to be promoted to assistant wealth director and then to wealth director.

"An individual who is highly motivated, eager to learn, has strong social, communications and analytical skills, self-confidence and integrity will be able to succeed in the job," says Ms Cheung.

Mr Edward Kwong, Human Resources Director at The Prudential Assurance Company Limited says there are openings for financial services consultants in the company throughout this year to cope with the business expansion. To qualify, one should be at least a Form 5 graduate and have two to three years of sales and marketing experience. He says: "Fresh graduates are given equal opportunities; what really matters is their determination and career aspirations." Like most institutions, Prudential offers a five-week training course that includes preparation for the Insurance Intermediaries Quality Assurance Examination.

Alex Orr, Senior Manager, Agency Recruitment Division at Sun Life Financial, says this year they have hired about 55 people, which is slightly fewer than last year. He notes: "Despite the high unemployment rate many people do not like the self-employed relationship where they cannot predict their income." Sun Life compensates its agency staff mostly by commission.

Kisson Lau, Director of Sales and Marketing at investment adviser Noble Apex, says they have hired 60 people this year and will add 30 more. "We are a financial boutique and we have been expanding our product lines this year," he says. The company acts like a one-stop shop financial planner for clients advising them on their investments, estate planning, offshore company arrangements, overseas properties and other areas.

The company requires applicants to have a university degree.

Taken from Career Times 13 September 2002
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