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Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Resilience amid challenge

by Charles Mak

Carrie Leung
chief executive officer
The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers
Photo: Wallace Chan
Budding bankers to raise game with increased competence

Hong Kong's economy is certainly in rude health but nobody expects to cash in on old rope and for this very reason a spate of major banks and financial institutions are looking to boost business growth by means of talent management, stepping up recruitment while enhancing the overall competence of their existing workforce.

"Today's banking professionals need to look at things from a wider perspective and only then can they stay dynamic and be able to see the wood for the trees," advises Carrie Leung, chief executive officer, The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers.

For five years on the trot, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers had invited participation in its Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards—an annual event that recognises best practice and celebrates talent of banking and finance professionals.

This year, the HKIB Awards will continue to see award hopefuls put through their paces.

New relevance

The Awards, which were split into two categories, one for professionals with less than three years' experience in the field and the other for their more experienced counterparts, last year incorporated a third one that brings to the fore the competence of "high-street" financial planning management professionals boasting a "high net worth" clientele comprising individuals with "investable" assets of more than US$1 million (excluding primary residence owned) at a financial institution.

The new addition essentially reflects the Awards' breadth and market relevance. Endorsement by established bankers, finance organisations and professional bodies also solidifies the event's credentials.

The participants' initial written submissions are assessed in accordance with the provisions of a competency model TRUST which is designed to measure the individuals' ability to foster trusting relations, recognise clients' financial positions and goals, understand their financial status, structure financial plan, manage their portfolios in a timely fashion.

Selected candidates are screened for entry into the final presentation session where the best three from each of the three categories meet with a star-studded adjudicator line-up of seasoned professionals in the field and put forward a panacea for a hypothetical customer's financial concerns.

Ms Leung notes that the past finalists were all competent professionals who exhibited superlative communication skills and presentation techniques. "They could have given any of their fellow participants a run for their money," she remarks.

Seal of approval

Past winners of the HKIB Awards may have shown that they had talent in spades but the very idea of the HKIB initiative is to encourage wealth management practitioners to carry over industry best practice and succeed at their tasks in the workplace.

Ms Leung points out that increased awareness of corporate governance and stringent compliance standards have rewritten the banking and finance industry into a different genre. If all who work in the field are expected to reach competency, it stands to reason that banking institutions will have to provide ample resources particularly to those who start out at an entry level. In fact, as Ms Leung says, new entrants to the industry nowadays get access to a vast array of training and development opportunities, backed by the knowledge that the insatiable growth of customer demands will only prompt further development efforts by their employers.

"Professionalism in the sector has taken a steep upturn," she says. This has been particularly conspicuous since the inception of the HKIB Awards in 2006. Aside from this benchmarking event, the HKIB has also been keen to remain at the forefront of professional development as one of a handful of professional bodies that confer qualifications of an international level.

Acknowledged widely by the banking communities in Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China, the Associate of the Hong Kong Institute of BankersTM (AHKIBTM), the only banking qualification in Hong Kong that corresponds with the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (CIOBS) Chartered Banker qualifications, comprises a diploma, an advanced diploma and a specialist diploma pegged at the sixth level of the government's Qualification Framework (QF).

The three-pronged accreditation pathway is designed in such a way that there is something for every aspiring individual, helping them to find their feet on a generalist track before they move into a specialist steam.

Wealth management professionals, in turn, may work towards attaining the institute's degree-level Certified Financial Management PlannerTM (CFMPTM) designation, which fulfils the level-five requirements in the QF and is recognised by the China Banking Association at par with its Certification of China Banking Professional (CCBP) qualification.

In collaboration with the Management Academy of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, the HKIB has recently rolled out a one-of-its-kind diploma programme in financial planning. Students that completed the programme may articulate to the second stage of the CFMPTM.

"In view of the importance of talent development to the industry's sustainable future, we will continue to forge partnership with Hong Kong's academia for learning programmes, and promote professional advancement training as a major component of banking institutions' pipeline initiatives," Ms Leung adds.

She emphasises that character is key to career success. Resilience and a pleasant disposition are also indispensable. "Generic skills can be trained and polished. HR managers and department heads look primarily for quality and potential for development in their recruits," she stresses.

Further changes to the industry will only spur stronger optimism and enthusiasm among young graduates. Banking institutions have laid down a welcome mat to those interested in a banking career and Ms Leung is confident that the industry will be able to absorb a good number of local talent. "The recruitment market is now more active and we've seen a lot of activities," she says. "The sector will only become more energetic and dynamic but certain important principles must be observed and respected and this will continue to challenge banking practitioners' intuitions in the long term."

Taken from Career Times 13 May 2011, A2

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