Money Moves

Going back to basics

by Ada Ng

Raymond Cheung
vice-president, training
Altruist Financial Group Ltd
Photo: Wallace Chan

The global financial storm has not completely crippled activities of independent financial advisers (IFAs) in Hong Kong as they cash in on newly emerging opportunities.

People have been more aware of the basics of rational financial planning and called for enhanced risk management and family income protection in their portfolios, says Raymond Cheung, vice-president, training, Altruist Financial Group Ltd.

"While sales of investment-linked products registered an 80 per cent industry-wide year-on-year fall in the first quarter this year, we are seeing a significant increase in the sales of life insurance products," he notes.

The global crisis has showcased the unique position and merits of Altruist as an IFA. "Our financial consultancy role always goes beyond that of products salespeople. We are positioned as independent financial consultants, tasked with selecting among a wide variety of available financial products in the market those that will best meet the long-term needs of our clients," Mr Cheung remarks.

He stresses clients' tendency to go back to basic financial planning principles and rationality in guiding them through any "post-traumatic" conditions.

To meet increasing demand for knowledge-based and rational financial advice, Altruist has organised a series of resources re-allocation workshops for existing and prospective clients. These will provide them with ample opportunities to learn from industry experts the basics in financial planning, helping them to re-allocate appropriate resources to achieve various financial goals.

"Clients are now more aware of the value of risk management and they now desire to see a balanced portfolio, with life insurance products as key components," he explains. "These non sales-oriented and mainly educational workshops serve as a new public education approach to reaching out to our clients for more careful strategy-making and more rational financial planning process."

Investment psychology

Internally, Altruist places greater emphasis on investment psychology in in-house trainings. "We would like our financial advisers to understand that investors' rationality is sometimes clouded by their desire for short-term returns and this may prompt them to respond irrationally to market movements," notes Mr Cheung. "It is our job to remind them of long-term goals such as protection (life insurance) and savings (funds investment) in financial planning. Therefore, we maintain effective communications with clients and invite them in to review their portfolios regularly."

Risk management is also given a high premium during in-house training. "Our role as advisers can be likened to that of an architect who should incorporate necessary anti-earthquake measures into a building plan before a calamity strikes," he explains. "We also teach our consultants to help clients ride out the current financial storm through re-allocation of their financial resources and re-establishment of an updated portfolio with us."

Altruist plans to recruit 25 financial advisers before the end of the year. A university degree, passion and keen ambition to become professional financial advisers remain key elements in the selection of candidates. However, integrity is accorded a priority.

"It is a must for potential financial advisers to possess integrity and a genuine desire to serve the best interest of clients", stresses Mr Cheung. Candidates are required to sit for stringent tests, which will assess their personality traits, character strengths and weaknesses. They also need to go through interviews with the group's senior executives before they are selected.

Bucking the trend

  • Investors exercise more caution
  • Demand for life insurance products increases significantly
  • Advisers tasked with offering rational guidance

Taken from Career Times 04 September 2009, p. A10
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