The growing financial planning business has been vital both to the wellbeing of individuals and to Hong Kong as an international financial centre. Riding on the success of the 2006 awards, the HKIB Outstanding Financial Planner Awards has turned into an annual competition with wide support from the banking and finance industry.
The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) and Career Times are joining hands again in 2007 to organise the awards in order to raise public awareness of the importance of financial planning; enhance the competitive edge of practitioners in the banking and financial sectors; promote ethical selling and provision of suitable products to customers; and to recognise individuals who excel in the financial planning profession.
"This is a meaningful event and we are committed to uplifting our expertise to support the development of the whole industry," says Carrie Leung, chief executive officer, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers. "We have been receiving encouraging feedback from many organisations and business leaders since the launch of the competition. While most employers agree on the importance of boosting the professionalism of their staff, the participants themselves also found the experience useful and learned how they could share with their team-mates to raise the bar of customer services. In addition, it also helps to increase public awareness and understanding of wealth management."
Like last year, the competition is categorised into two divisions, for participants who have up to or over three years of experience. The awards are open to all financial planning practitioners in the Hong Kong and Macau banking and finance sectors.
Participants who endeavour to go into the final round are required first to go through three stages: submission of a written financial plan, oral presentation and interview. In the last round, they are required to handle a hypothetical case by developing a written financial plan and giving an oral presentation.
To perform well in the awards demands all-round and high quality knowledge and skills. Participants are assessed on their abilities based on a TRUST model, standing for "trusting relationship", "recognise financial goals", "understand financial status", "structure financial plan that meets the goals" and "timely management of agreed financial plan".
The attitudes, knowledge and skills of the financial planner are measured during the oral session. A sincere, responsible, confident and trustworthy person is likely to impress the judges, yet he or she also needs to demonstrate relevant knowledge of the financial markets and products, regulatory environment, code of ethics and risk factors, as well as the ability to precisely and convincingly communicate with people and help the customer to understand and resolve concerns effectively.
To assess the participants from different perspectives, representatives from regulatory, academic, and banking and finance sectors are invited to be on the judging panel to evaluate performance in ethical selling and compliance, academic knowledge and consultative selling skills.
Ms Leung points out that ethical selling is what a good financial planner should keep in mind. She explains, "Apart from product knowledge, a financial planner should always think from the customer's standpoint, understand their background and make ethical recommendations for financial solutions that really suit their needs. Also we need to make sure that those suggestions comply with regulations and the risk levels are thoroughly evaluated in the plans as well."
Originally developed for the competition, the benchmark criteria now have turned into industry standards as the HKIB formally constitutes them in its professional qualification training for certified financial management planners (CFMP).
"We hope to bring across the good standards and practices of the TRUST model to every practitioner in the industry, not restrict it to those who enjoy the opportunity to join the awards. In the last year alone, we have seen a 50 per cent increase in CFMP programme enrolment. We want to leverage our extensive reach to financial planners and promote the pursuit of higher quality in the industry, so that we can provide professional and useful advice to customers who, in turn, will increase their trust in financial planners and wealth management."