Money Moves

New benchmark in financial planning

by Anna Tong

All round programme offers professionals boundless opportunities

Carrie Leung (middle), chief executive officer, The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers;
Raymond Wong (fourth left), senior district director
Jones Lam (third right), head of financial planner division, assistant vice president and director of agency
American International Assurance Company (Bermuda) Limited
Photo: Johnny Kwok

The 14th of May 2007 marked an important day in the history of Hong Kong's banking and finance industry as the very first batch of 49 AIA insurance agents graduated from the certified financial management planner (CFMP) programme organised by The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB).

The CFMP programme emerged as a response to the evolving market, with a more client-oriented approach being the key. "The programme comprises seven modules that centre around the needs of the client," says Carrie Leung, chief executive officer, HKIB. "It is about financial planning and educating professionals on the key aspects within the industry."

Changing roles

What makes the programme stand out from the rest is the incorporation of banking elements, including law, products and services, giving knowledge as well as insight into how banking professionals do business. "We want our agents to understand how bankers work," says Raymond Wong, senior district director, American International Assurance Company (Bermuda) Limited (AIA). Dr Wong believes that the CFMP programme provides the complete training needed for the insurance industry to be able to move forward, by upgrading its professionals in banking knowledge.

The old standard of banks selling only banking products and insurance companies selling insurance products is changing with both industries now crossing over. "This makes it all the more important to understand what the banking products and services are in order to give the right advice to clients," says Dr Wong.

Jones Lam, head of financial planner division, assistant vice president and director of agency, AIA, points to the prominence of banks when people are considering their financial needs as another obvious reason for teaching banking knowledge to insurance professionals. "When people think about financial planning the first thing that comes into their minds is the bank," he says. "Since this is their first port of call, what better way for us to do business than to train our insurance professionals to think like bankers?"

The CFMP programme offers a platform for industry professionals to enhance their understanding of this overlap. Those in insurance can increase their knowledge of banking and its products and services. "The programme provides training not only to banking professionals but to anyone in the financial services industry," says Ms Leung.

AIA is the first non-banking company to participate. "We feel very privileged to be the first insurance company to go on the professional programme," says Dr Wong adding that the training has now become mandatory.

The sheer complexity of banking and investing means that it is paramount for insurance professionals to have training in these areas if they are to be competitive in the financial industry. "There are so many factors to take into account when it comes to investment-linked products, it is important that our professionals know how they work and how to service accordingly," says Dr Wong.

Local touch

The CFMP programme educates professionals in international standards but is also unique in its application at a local level. This is important for successful businesses in any country but especially those interested in breaking into the banking and finance industry on the mainland. "The programme not only has a Hong Kong stream but also a China one, allowing professionals to understand rules and regulations on the mainland and thus assist in fulfilling customer needs in both regions," says Ms Leung.

Dr Wong is pleased with the relationship AIA and HKIB have formed. Ms Leung says HKIB is also pleased and to illustrate this she points out, "We devised an intensive programme so that the AIA agents could finish the programme in 14 months rather than two years." Dr Wong expects further collobarations will provide more training programmes for insurance professionals. Confirming this, Mr Lam says, "We are already preparing the next group of AIA agents to go on the programme."

Founded in 1963, HKIB has always recognised the importance of professional training in banking and finance. It is dedicated to providing relevant training programmes to its members to foster professionalism in the industry.

Taken from Career Times 26 May 2007, p. A2
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