In response to the rapid growth of the financial planning industry and in order to encourage excellence in the sector, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB), in collaboration with Career Times, introduces the Outstanding Financial Planner Awards this year.
Carrie Leung, the HKIB's chief executive officer, says the awards will serve to motivate financial planners to perform better and will strengthen public confidence in their expertise and overall professional standards. Ms Leung believes that, the awards will also help to attract more people to enter the field and dedicate themselves to a career in financial planning.
Although some similar competitions already exist, Ms Leung points out that the HKIB awards will gain wide recognition since all the major banks and financial institutions in Hong Kong are, in effect, acting as sponsors. She notes that the HKIB's membership represents all parts of the banking industry.
"We have over 100 corporate members, including over 90 per cent of the banking and financial institutions in Hong Kong," Ms Leung says. "Other types of financial institution, such as insurance companies and independent financial advisories, are also members and our council is made up of industry leaders including Joseph Yam, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority."
All financial planners working in Hong Kong can take part in the HKIB awards and applications are already being received. To enter, an applicant must be nominated by his or her employer. According to Ms Leung, the selection criteria are based on a review of real-life cases and how successfully they have been handled.
The first round of the competition requires contestants to submit a financial planning proposal which they have drawn up for one of their clients. In this respect, Ms Leung emphasises that it is essential to get the employer's prior approval before disclosing any sensitive information. Also, in order to protect clients' personal privacy, their identities must not be revealed.
Candidates who make it through to the second round will be invited to attend a face-to-face interview with a panel of three or four judges to discuss about the financial planning proposals previously submitted.
Altogether, around 18 judges have been asked to lend their expertise. They hold senior positions with responsibility for financial planning or wealth management departments for some of Hong Kong's leading financial institutions.
The top six candidates will move on to the final round — three of them with less than three years' professional experience in the field and the remainder with more than that. They will be then given a case prepared by the HKIB and asked to work out a financial planning proposal.
Ms Leung says that the HKIB's main mission is to respond to market trends by providing relevant training and support to facilitate the development of the sector. Therefore, besides introducing the new awards, they will re-launch the CPFP (Certified Professional Financial Planner) programme in August.
This will combine an international framework with local elements. It will be possible to choose either a Hong Kong or a mainland China module and, thereby, to focus on the respective regulations and topics.
The programme will cover general financial planning practices plus an overview of banking products and how they are used. Ms Leung points out that it is a major advantage for financial planners to understand basic banking services and practices. This knowledge allows them to explain proposals more effectively and, therefore, to win the confidence of clients.
The subject of social responsibility will also be dealt with, so financial planners can give practical advice to their clients about how best to make charitable donations.
The CPFP programme comprises seven modules in total, each requiring 30 hours of classroom teaching or private study or a combination of both. Everyone must sit the same examination to obtain the qualification.
The increasing demand for professional advice in Hong Kong and mainland China certainly suggests the prospects for the financial planning industry are bright. However, Ms Leung stresses, "It is also essential to keep up-to-date with market developments, regulatory changes and global trends in order to remain competitive."
Highlights of the CPFP programme
- Built on an academic framework designed by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
- The first and only programme incorporating banking products, practices and law related to financial planning
- Integrates international standards with local needs in both Hong Kong and mainland China
- Incorporate social responsibility elements for the benefit of the wider community
- Widely recognised by the leading banks and regulators in Hong Kong and the mainland