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Money Moves

Local advisor capitalises on opportunities

by Jacky Wong

Sidney Sze, chief executive officer
Midland Wealth Management
Photo: Wallace Chan

For most investors, one single investment plan no longer suffices, and there is a great demand for established independent financial advisors (IFAs) able to provide objective investment advice and a broader range of products to help clients plan and manage their assets. One such company is Midland Wealth Management.

Established in 2004, the Hong Kong-based company has emerged as one of the territory's top five IFAs. The company works closely with Midland Financial Planning Limited and is supported by listed companies Midland Holdings Limited and Cypress International Investment Advisors Limited. It currently employs 200 financial consultants and offers diverse products, from business and group insurance, staff benefit schemes and personal financial planning to investment plans.

"Midland's success is a manifestation of IFAs' success in the global investment market," says Sidney Sze, chief executive officer, Midland Wealth Management. Dr Sze, who is also chairman of the Independent Financial Advisors Association Limited, believes that IFAs will eventually shape the territory's entire investment market.

Having previously worked in Canada, Dr Sze points out that the investment market in that country has been dominated by "tied agents", who are only allowed to recommend products from their employers, and "multi-tied agents", such as banking institutions and independent financial advisors. However, as Canadian investors gain more understanding of investment products, they are starting to look for financial advisors that can provide more independent and objective advice, as well as a wider range of products to cater for their needs and investment goals. Dr Sze believes that, considering the current market situation is triggering a strong demand for IFAs, the same is true of Hong Kong investors.

While independent advisors can expect substantial business growth, banking institutions will continue to play a dominant role in the marketplace. However, IFAs will pose a keen challenge to tied agents in the future.

In a continuous effort to upgrade the quality of its service and enhance its professional expertise, Midland Wealth Management stresses training for its financial planners, as well as compliance with professional standards. Training covers product knowledge as well as soft skills.

"We are one of the few IFAs in Hong Kong that places a strong emphasis on compliance," Dr Sze notes. "We demand that our consultants adhere strictly to industry regulations and good practice, as we believe that this benefits our clients, the financial planners themselves and the company."

Dr Sze foresees a situation where many investors will employ more than one financial consultant to look after their financial needs, for example one advisor from a banking institution and one from an independent company. This would enable clients to compare products and service quality.

In order to accommodate its increasing workforce, Midland Wealth Management will be moving its offices to Causeway Bay in September. The company also plans more developments on the mainland, which Dr Sze says has huge market potential. This includes setting up offices in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai next year. Expansion plans also include increasing the company's financial consultant staff numbers from 200 to 300 by the end of 2008.


Taken from Career Times 31 August 2007, p. A16

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