Money Moves

Entrepreneurial spirit essential for financial advisors

by Sophie Leung

Carmen Wong, chief operating officer
Midland Financial Group
Photo: Wallace Chan

Many investors worry about the depreciation of their assets when interest rates are low but inflation on the rise. However, people continue to have financial needs in spite of market fluctuations and the financial planning sector is growing rapidly as people increasingly understand the importance of planning ahead.

Four years ago, Midland Financial Group was founded with just 20 staff. Today, the group has more than 200 consultants working on the frontline as independent financial advisors (IFAs). "We have confidence in the IFA industry and expect to increase our frontline crew to 300 by the end of the year," says Carmen Wong, chief operating officer, Midland Financial Group.

The many diverse financial products on the market make it a challenge for clients to devise their own portfolios and there is a great need for professional financial advisors to help them identify the best available options. "Midland sets itself apart from its competitors by offering independent consultancy services," Ms Wong states. "We are consultants who help our clients shop for the best, as opposed to being sales agents pushing particular products." The group offers a wide range of products promoted by nearly 20 insurance companies and other investment institutions. Advisors look at the options from the clients' perspective, compare and review products and structure long-term plans to help achieve customers' financial goals.

To maintain a professional and committed workforce, Midland invests heavily in training its independent advisors. Apart from orientation sessions and briefings offered by product providers, all staff undergo a comprehensive skills audit and tailor-made training sessions.

Midland is currently seeking mature candidates, preferably with a degree, to join its dynamic frontline team. Most of the group's consultants gained three to five years' work experience in a finance-related field before joining Midland, says Ms Wong.

The sector's bright outlook is attracting increasing numbers of professionals from other industries who enjoy the flexible working schedule and self-directed business freedom. Midland's consultancy workforce includes bankers, accountants, engineers and programmers. "Financial advice is a people-oriented industry. Our clients are from all walks of life, and so are our advisors," notes Ms Wong.

To succeed in the profession, candidates should have self-discipline and an entrepreneurial spirit. It depends on the advisor to achieve results, with the group's support, and financial rewards depend directly on the amount of effort put in. Ms Wong advises that it is essential for candidates to have a desire to learn and keep up with the dynamic market as well as new emerging products.

Working as a business partner to the advisors, Midland regularly offers seminars and devises marketing campaigns to explore new business prospects. "Everyone can succeed and earn the trust of customers, provided they are sincere," concludes Ms Wong.

Taken from Career Times 20 June 2008, p. A19
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