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Money Moves

Nurturing ethical investment professionals

by Grace Chan

Ashvin Vibhakar (left) CFA, managing director
Asia Pacific operations, CFA Institute;
Raymond DeAngelo, managing director
stakeholder services, marketing and communication division, CFA Institute
Photo: Lewis Wong
With up-and-coming hubs in Asia Pacific giving Hong Kong a run for its money as the region's finance capital, the city's strong and ethical contingent of qualified and experienced chartered financial analysts (CFAs) still provides it with a competitive advantage.

There are three factors that confirm Hong Kong's status as an international finance capital, stresses Ashvin Vibhakar, CFA, managing director, Asia Pacific operations, CFA Institute. "Firstly, with the fast-growing mainland market, many investors from Europe and the US consider Hong Kong to be the gateway to China. Secondly, the city's uncomplicated tax structure attracts business, the stock exchange is progressive and there are few restrictions, which makes it a good place for a capital market."

The important third aspect is talent and regulatory structure, he explains. "During the financial crisis, it became clear that Hong Kong had many knowledgeable and highly ethical practitioners. The city has a forward-thinking structure and the industry regulatory body has the ability to ensure the right balance between appropriate oversight and innovation."

In addition, many of Hong Kong's finance professionals have the internationally recognised CFA accreditation, reflecting the quality of overall standards. "The CFA Program is challenging, and becoming a charterholder is a significant achievement," he remarks.

With about 4,700 local CFA charterholders, the city has the largest concentration of practitioners with this designation in Asia Pacific and the fourth-largest in the world. "This is a distinct advantage," Mr Vibhakar notes, adding that the CFA Institute every year conducts extensive surveys in various countries to ensure that the curriculum remains relevant.

Industry benchmarks

Aside from the extensive curriculum covered by the programme, the CFA credential is also held in regard for the high ethical standards it promotes. All CFA candidates and charterholders must abide by the CFA Institute Code of Ethics, emphasises Raymond DeAngelo, managing director, stakeholder services, marketing and communication division, CFA Institute.

"Since reputation is everything in the finance and investment industry, we have an extremely strong emphasis on professional performance," he notes. "The Code of Ethics is periodically reviewed to keep it dynamic and to reflect changes in the financial services sector."

CFA Institute regards young graduates as future industry leaders, and has forged partnerships with 30 major universities in the Asia Pacific region, including the Chinese University of Hong Kong and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

In order to promote best practise in financial research and professional conduct among the next generation of practitioners, the organisation in 2007 introduced an annual Global Investment Research Challenge. University students around the world that enter the competition are required to work with public listed companies under the mentorship of a practising professional to prepare a financial analysis and present their research results and recommendations to a high-profile panel of experts.

"This year's winning team will have the opportunity to meet with renowned US investor and industrialist Warren Buffet, who has always regarded investor education and reaching out to people as top priorities," Mr DeAngelo says.

Taken from Career Times 3 December 2010, A6

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