With the growing demand for financial planning services, the quality of wealth management professionals has also become a major focus. Only in an atmosphere of total trust can a client-planner relationship prosper, and such confidence can only be achieved against a backdrop of continuously sound financial judgements, reliability and honesty.
Stephen Choy, a personal financial services manager at the Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited and one of the finalists in this year's Outstanding Financial Planner Awards, jointly organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) and Career Times, shares his story about successful relationships with clients, "As financial planners, we must always act in the interest of clients," he asserts.
Mr Choy's primary goal of entering the competition was to gain a better understanding of his position in the sector and gauge the direction of fellow practitioners. "The competition is effectively a self-audit exercise coupled with a comprehensive learning experience," he says.
Aiming at enhancing professionalism and recognising the achievements of outstanding financial planning practitioners, this competition is open to all financial planners in both Hong Kong and Macau's banking and financial sectors. The first round required participants to submit a financial planning proposal based on a real case, and short-listed candidates were invited to attend a face-to-face interview with the judging panel.
During the competition's final round held last week, Mr Choy and the other five finalists studied a hypothetical case, and each of them devised a written financial plan to be orally presented to the judging panel.
As a financial planning professional with BOCHK, he has access to cutting-edge research and state-of-the-art technology which, he says, was invaluable in his preparations. "I masterminded the proposal and the financial plan required in the competition but without the support of the bank, I would not have been able to do such a great job," he adds. He also considered the competition an eye-opening experience. "The exchange of insights between peers and the plethora of constructive panel comments sharpened my professional mindset," he notes.
Mr Choy believes that although the working life of a financial planner can often become stressful, it is fundamentally rewarding in the long term as clients secure a better future by achieving their personal goals at different stages in life.
As a professional financial planner, Mr Choy must also comply with the latest ethical standards. "Integrity is a core element in financial planning. Equally vital is objectivity and ensuring financial planning professionals make decisions devoid of personal judgement," he says. Other attributes such as competence, fairness and confidentiality are also basic requirements for today's financial planners.
"Professionalism is a must. In a constantly changing world, we must also keep abreast of the times to ensure our customers' financial goals are always met," Mr Choy emphasises. "A firm grasp of the reality and complexities of financial products requires intricate, up-to-date knowledge which can only be obtained through continuous learning." In this regard, he is particularly grateful for BOCHK's support in his quest for higher qualifications.
According to Mr Choy, in addition to integrity and knowledge, useful attributes necessary for a successful financial planner include punctuality, approachability and the willingness to work hard. Most importantly however, is the ability to prioritise client interests. He adds that observing etiquette and maintaining a pleasant demeanour are equally helpful because most clients prefer a likeable and knowledgeable person to manage their wealth.
Mr Choy is proud of his present career. "A well-designed and comprehensive financial plan helps clients counter the twists and turns of life, while bringing them added peace of mind. We are committed to providing customers with personalised solutions tailored to their individual goals and financial requirements," he concludes.