Money Moves

Language choice for aspiring financial advisers

By Nicole Wong

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

Angeline Chin, executive director, development, marketing and membership department, Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong
Photo: Edde Ngan

The lucrative financial services market has been the talk of the town in the last couple of years and anyone looking for a head start in the industry can do no better than turn to the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK) for guidance and information. The IFPHK is the sole licensing body authorised by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards in the US to grant CFP certification to local professionals qualified in the sector. Together with the prestigious UK-based Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), they also introduced the International Certificate for Financial Advisers (ICFA) in 2003.

This entry-level qualification, which shows the holder's commitment to and knowledge of the industry, was recently renamed the Financial Advisers International Qualification (FAIQ) by the CII and is undergoing other significant changes. In particular, examinations in Hong Kong, which were first conducted only in English in October 2004, will now be offered in both English and Chinese as from April 2005.

Angeline Chin, executive director of the development, marketing and membership department at the IFPHK, highlights local context as the main reason for this innovation. "Many entry-level exams in the financial services industry, such as those offered by the Hong Kong Securities Institute (HKSI), are already available in bilingual versions," she notes. "This is in response to the needs of certain professionals who feel their expertise is more accurately assessed when they can use their native language."

It is seen as a forward-looking move for the industry locally and should help to create a larger pool of talented practitioners. In addition, it reflects an upturn in the financial services industry in Asia generally, since the CII also intends to introduce the exam in China, Macau and Taiwan in the near future.

To consolidate the status of the qualification and its new language medium, the IFPHK has done all it can to ensure there is no differentiation between the English and Chinese versions of the FAIQ exam. Painstaking efforts have been made in the translation and localisation of materials, while content has been reviewed and commented on by experienced practitioners. All materials were subjected to a sophisticated quality assurance check during the 9-month preparation period and a panel of experts closely supervised each step. The newly approved material will be available in early 2005 with enrolment for the next course starting on 1 February and running until 7 March.

"We received over 240 applications for the first FAIQ exam in English," Ms Chin says, "and expect more for the Chinese version." Industry feedback has been extremely positive and several insurance companies have been promoting the FAIQ for their new recruits. The exam is also attracting the attention of ambitious young graduates and professionals in other fields, who are thinking of a future career in the financial services sector and are looking to gain an advantage.

Ms Chin predicts the Chinese language exam will prove a popular choice. She also points out that deciding whether to take professional exams in Chinese or English can often depend on the local context. "There are other exams in Hong Kong that receive international recognition solely in the English medium," she says. "However, bilingual exams are a growing trend and we see this as having a positive impact on the industry."

Taken from Career Times 28 January 2005, p. 2
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