Following a rigorous selection procedure, the judging panel — comprising several diversified heavyweights from Hong Kong's financial, government and academic sectors — has shortlisted six finalists for the Outstanding Financial Planner Awards 2007.
More than 200 candidates representing banks, insurance companies and independent financial advisories entered the competition jointly organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) and Career Times. The overall competition aims are to boost awareness of the importance of financial planning and promote financial planner excellence in Hong Kong and Macau.
Contestants were divided into two groups, depending on years of industry experience. First, all participants submitted a financial planning proposal using a real scenario they had encountered at work. Then, 30 distinguished planners were shortlisted to enter the second round in which the judging panel assessed their performance in face-to-face interviews.
"The proposals the panel received illustrate a rise in the overall performance of applicants this year," Carrie Leung, the HKIB's chief executive officer says. "The financial plans are well organised and packed with explicit examples. Some even include questions and answers taken from conversations with actual customers."
On the whole, participants are capable of grasping the key element in financial planning — two-way communication — to design a portfolio for each customer based on individual needs, using appropriate financial tools, such as insurance and investment products, and with a thorough analysis and explanation of the options.
In the final round, the entrants submitted a written financial plan and delivered an oral presentation based on a hypothetical case study. Ethical and professional standards, conceptual understanding and a candidate's practicality should all be reflected in the presentation.
"In one case, a participating financial planner found medical care referral for a mentally disabled child, going the extra mile beyond financial services," Ms Leung adds. "With a true personal touch, the entrants have unveiled the human side of financial planning. This breakthrough in the roles of a financial planner, which are usually linked to product sales alone, should serve as a model for the industry."
Ms Leung also notes that using their expertise, financial planners should take on the responsibility of educating investors in the community by offering comprehensive analyses on both local and global economic situations.
"There is a host of investment options currently available. However, to include the superlative tools in a customer's plan in order to obtain successful investment growth and the requisite level of financial protection, a financial planner must utilise panoptic vision," Ms Leung explains. "Regarding education funds for example, financial planners should consider customers' goals as a priority. If parents wish to send their children overseas, a reserve scheme of relevant foreign currency should feature, plus a precise calculation of expected investment amount, return and time span to complement the whole plan," she advises.
Ms Leung remarks that it is encouraging to see such obvious professional progress in the second annual round of the Outstanding Financial Planner Awards. This year's final results will be announced at the awards presentation ceremony on 3 December. The Grand Awards will be presented to the winners of the two categories alongside a Gold Award to the other four finalists. Honourable guests from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau and members of the HKIB are invited to attend the ceremony.
While the competition has won support from all sectors of the industry and has achieved its objectives to enhance professional standards in the financial planning sector, Ms Leung believes that new perspectives revealed from this experience will be incorporated into the HKIB's training programmes.
To equip talent with needed knowledge, the HKIB provides a wide range of courses and seminars for individuals working in the banking and financial services industry. Among them, the Certified Financial Management PlannerTM (CFMPTM) programme has become a featured training programme since its launch in July last year. It is now widely recognised by the banking and finance industry in Hong Kong, mainland China and Macau. Many financial institutions have already incorporated the CFMPTM programme into their regular training curriculum.
"We recommend new recruits consider joining the CFMPTM programme to obtain an in-depth understanding of personal and corporate banking products as well as wealth management services. Equipped with this professional qualification, they can then move on to the Outstanding Financial Planner Awards to truly test their personal capability," Ms Leung concludes.