As society becomes more aware of the benefits of financial planning and wealth management, financial management planners are recognised as skilled professionals in their own right.
Hong Kong's banking industry has evolved rapidly in recent years and currently more than 40 per cent of local banks' business involve financial planning or wealth management services, says Susanne Hui, general manager, institute development, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (the HKIB).
Since financial management planners play an important role in the industry, they are expected to have the necessary qualifications, conduct themselves in a professional way and continuously upgrade their skills.
"Today's financial planners are highly qualified professionals," Ms Hui notes. "They complete various licensing examinations, which set the required standards and assess their competence. Planners must adhere to the industry's code of practice and are constantly monitored by regulatory bodies."
A key figure in the banking and finance industry, the HKIB also monitors the continuous professional development of its members to ensure that they meet the ever-increasing service standards.
The emphasis that universities place on studies related to wealth management is another indication of the profession's respectability, says Ms Hui.
"In the past, many people favoured the medical and accounting professions, but in recent years society has increasingly accepted new disciplines in finance and banking, with a strong focus on wealth management," she adds.
Investment in the industry
With an increasing number of newcomers entering the industry, the HKIB has introduced a range of training and study programmes, including the popular Certified Financial Management PlannerTM (CFMPTM) programme, which was launched in 2006 and quick to become instrumental in enhancing industry standards.
Many senior managers and division heads have signed up for the programme to expand their knowledge and skill sets, Ms Hui notes.
"The programme offers them the perfect opportunity to brush up on their expertise and many of them also enrol their staff as the programme provides young financial management planners with a comprehensive overview of the industry," she remarks.
The CFMPTM programme also gives candidates the opportunity to apply their knowledge in practice, as the examinations include a requirement to devise a wealth management portfolio.
Ms Hui believes that there are great prospects for Hong Kong financial management planners. Local banks are investing heavily in developing their wealth management units and other financial institutes such as insurance agencies are also taking a keen interest.
"The most important factor is public awareness. Even university students today are very much aware of the need to plan for their financial future, so the demand for financial management planning can only increase," states Ms Hui.
The development of the mainland China market presents challenges and opportunities for Hong Kong-based financial management planners, Ms Hui points out. There is currently a sharp focus on the mainland banking industry and a number of senior management from Hong Kong have moved across the border to help develop wealth management businesses in mainland banks.
"Most mainland financial management planners have outstanding academic and professional qualifications," Ms Hui notes. "The HKIB works with mainland authorities to keep our members abreast of the latest development in that market. We have also incorporated China elements in our CFMPTM programme in order for our members to have a solid understanding of mainland finance when they serve Hong Kong clients with business across the border, or if they want to work in China in the future."
Meanwhile, talented professionals have the chance to shine at the annual HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards. Since the launch of the awards in 2006, Ms Hui has noticed a constant improvement in the quality of the contestants.
"The wealth management industry looks at more than just capital gain for their clients; they also consider their clients' future financial goals. Financial management planners therefore build up long-term relationships with their clients, so that they can cater to their changing needs," Ms Hui says. "One of our goals with the awards is to increase public awareness of the importance of financial planning. Based on the feedback we have received so far, I can say that we have met our objectives."
The awards also serve to enhance the competitive edge of practitioners in the banking and financial sectors and place emphasis on the importance of ethical selling and product suitability for customers. Ultimately, the awards represent important recognition for dedicated financial management planners who have helped their clients grow over the years.
"Winners find that both their clients and their managers are proud of their achievements. This inspires them even further. The awards therefore play a major role in the development of the industry," Ms Hui concludes.