Professionals who stay confident in the toughest global economic environment have one thing in common. They not only possess superior knowledge and skills, but also the tenacity to think one step ahead.
Now in its fourth year, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards, the premier industry competition, aims to recognise such financial elites.
"Participation in the competition is recognition in itself," says Carrie Leung, chief executive officer, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB). "Companies only select their most outstanding professionals to represent them."
Although not every contestant will win the grand award, there are no losers in this endeavour. "Everyone will emerge with new contacts, invaluable learning experiences and an enhanced professional confidence, as well as a merit certificate," Ms Leung remarks.
Regardless of the challenges in today's business environment, industry players are increasingly enthusiastic about the competition because it motivates aspiring professionals in the field to strive for excellence and keep abreast of the latest market developments. "We have in recent weeks received many enquiries about the awards," confirms Ms Leung.
The HKIB awards provide a yardstick for judging winners' expertise and professional standing. Both of these go a long way in gaining customers' confidence and also help planners build long-term, trusting relationships with them.
In the past, winners have notified their clients about their success in the awards, which has also led to an increasing public awareness of the competition.
"Candidates are keen to prove themselves and, particularly in these difficult times, the award winners are in an ideal position to help rebuild client confidence in the industry," Ms Leung says.
Entrants to the competition are required to submit a written financial management plan in the first round. Successful candidates are then invited to give an oral presentation, followed by interviews with the judges. The final round also includes a written presentation.
The assessment criteria for the written financial plan are based on the TRUST model, an acronym for "trusting relationship", "recognising financial position and goals", "understanding financial status", "structuring financial plan" and "timely implementation and management".
In the oral presentation, the selected candidates are assessed in terms of their professional and technical knowledge, professional ethics as well as communication skills.
"These are essential elements in all aspects of financial management planning," Ms Leung stresses. "Valuable feedback from the panel judges serves as inspiration for award participants as they progress in their careers."
Raise the bar
While the competition allows industry practitioners to gain recognition in the field, the HKIB also encourages financial management planners to prepare for economic recovery through continuous education.
The institute plays a major role in this regard, offering top-notch professional training and study programmes such as the Certified Financial Management PlannerTM (CFMPTM) programme, which focuses on raising industry standards.
The aim of the CFMPTM programme is to nurture all-round talent in the increasingly diversified financial field. "We believe in the importance of comprehensive banking knowledge in order to offer customers the best financial solutions," Ms Leung points out.
The programme is therefore designed to build fundamental knowledge at the initial stage and then to help its students to move up progressively as specialists.
Ms Leung explains that the CFMPTM programme incorporates elements relating to the industry in mainland China, equipping learners with a solid understanding of mainland financial markets.
The programme is the first and only professional qualification in Hong Kong to have a mutual recognition agreement with Certification of China Banking Professional (CCBP) accreditation.
"Mainland recognition gives the programme an extra dimension. The added advantage of this professional qualification is that it can serve as a springboard for practitioners to work in mainland China in the long run," Ms Leung says.
To make the learning experience practical, the CFMPTM programme includes an oral examination. "Presentation skills, which are as important as textbook knowledge and ethics, illustrate a financial practitioner's experience, confidence and competence," says Ms Leung.
Since its introduction in 2006, more than 2,000 candidates have taken the CFMPTM exam and 800 of them are now fully qualified, after having accumulated two years of post-examination work experience.
In spite of the challenges currently faced by the banking and finance sector, Ms Leung is positive about its long-term prospects.
"Doing well at work is no longer sufficient. Individuals should be prepared to take challenges and enhance their competitiveness by constantly assessing and advancing their professional skills and knowledge," she concludes.