Money Moves

Ongoing training necessary for financial elites

by Isabella Lee

Raymond Cheung, manager
financial planning
Altruist Financial Group Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

Financial planning has grown into a major industry over the past decade. With professional planning services in great demand, a host of career options have opened up for entrants to this field. As the business becomes more sophisticated, financial institutions are aware of the importance of investing in quality staff in their quest to stand out among competitors.

Although financial planning is a high-profile career option, some people still have a negative impression of the field, says Raymond Cheung, manager, financial planning, Altruist Financial Group Limited.

"One possible reason for this is the fact that many industry players continue to see financial planning as a sales activity — simply selling financial products to consumers. This attitude is an obstacle to the provision of service excellence."

A financial planner's role can be compared with that of a life coach — a professional coaching clients to learn new concepts and to cross the bridge between "knowing" and "doing", says Mr Cheung. This facilitates the process of setting goals for clients and reaching them through a systematic approach, using a variety of techniques.

Using an analogy, Mr Cheung notes that while many people are still not actively investing in their futures, this is not through a lack of financial information. "Everybody knows that exercise is essential for maintaining good health. However, many people still do not get enough exercise. Instead, they just think about it, or plan to start working out some time in the future. Not taking action doesn't mean a person doesn't have sufficient knowledge," he explains.

It is therefore crucial that the entire financial planning process is carefully controlled — from the moment that a client's goals are identified until the goals are finally achieved. This, Mr Cheung says, is the primary task of the financial planner.

"Financial planning is a learning process. A financial planner should guide clients to identify their goals and then suggest appropriate ways of realising their dreams. Clients should be the sole decision makers every step of the way. The financial planner's role is to act as a 'mirror', acting on the clients wishes in an ethical and unbiased way," Mr Cheung adds.

Altruist has a stringent recruitment procedure, ensuring all team members understand the company's code of conduct. Employees attend regular in-house workshops focussing on improving financial planners' coaching skills.

says Mr Cheung, adding that it is essential for clients to have trust and confidence in their financial advisor. However, integrity is much more than just complying with discipline and regulations — it is about being true to oneself.

"For this reason, Altruist conducts regular training sessions to help team members understand their own persona through presentations, discussions and peer feedback," Mr Cheung notes.

Taken from Career Times 25 April 2008
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