Money Moves

Higher professional standards

By Julia Willshire

This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

Joseph Ho, general manager, distribution, MLC (Hong Kong) Limited
Photo: Johnny Kwok

In the field of wealth management, significant efforts are being made to upgrade overall standards and to ensure that practitioners possess the necessary qualifications. "This is a recognised profession, but not everyone involved in it is completely professional," notes Joseph Ho, general manager, distribution, MLC (Hong Kong) Limited. "Even those with qualifications don't necessarily meet the high standards that we expect."

In Mr Ho's view, professionalism can be judged by assessing two key elements: knowledge and how you put it into practice. "Besides having the basic knowledge, the most important thing is to understand a client's situation and to help them plan for the future," he says. "There is no standard measure of success or professionalism, but both come from applying the experience you pick up as you climb the career ladder."

He points out that proper training is crucial for financial consultants and for other people in the industry. As an international financial centre, Hong Kong should possess well-qualified people in all areas, not only to enhance the city's reputation, but to ensure clients receive the very best service and advice.

Mr Ho believes, however, that there is still some way to go in this respect and that further professional training is needed.

"That will partly determine the future standing of Hong Kong as a financial market," he says. "It will take some time to establish all that, but those who take a long-term view of the industry and get fully qualified will have a great chance for career development. As the financial planning workforce grows, levels of knowledge and standards of professionalism must be enhanced."

For this reason, MLC's recruitment activities concentrate on the suitability and "trainability" of applicants. Those with a positive attitude, or with previous experience of dealing with a diverse range of people, can usually do well in financial planning. "If a candidate has the right attitude and is trainable, we can give them the financial knowledge and the level of professionalism they will need," Mr Ho says.

The company's training programme is very comprehensive and includes information on presenting to customers and providing the best level of service at all times. In light of the growing need for professional training, MLC set up an institute last year with the aim of upgrading both their own sales force and the industry generally.

"Our more experienced wealth management professionals helped to design the courses and materials, which include sales skills and practical knowledge of insurance and investment, finance, taxation, and accounting," he says. Senior managers monitor the programmes and are already indicating they should make it possible to increase the sales force from 800 to 1,000 within this year.

Taken from Career Times 18 February 2005, p. 2
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