Winning may not have been his ultimate goal, but Edward Lee, investment consultant, international personal bank, Citibank Global Consumer Group walked away with the Grand Award (Group B — financial planners with more than three years' experience) from the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers Outstanding Financial Planner Awards presentation ceremony.
Despite receiving such a prestigious accolade, his humility is evident when he confesses that his main focus during his two months of preparation prior to the Contest was simply to do his best.
"I didn't have time to reflect on whether I'd win. I just focused on demonstrating my best while continuing to perform my daily professional duties. It is superb to receive the award as recognition for my hard work and it is also a great confidence booster," he adds.
Ricky Lin, director of wealth management, Citibank Global Consumer Group, believes apart from his capacity for hard work, Mr Lee's strong analytical skills, market sense and product knowledge were also major factors in his success.
|Ricky Lin, director of wealth management
Citibank (Hong Kong) Limited
Photo: Wallace Chan
Mr Lin observes that in recent decades, a lot of changes have occurred in the financial planning industry, which was traditionally exclusively tailored to the wealthy. However, rapid economic development, rising inflation and a paradigm shift in attitudes to using savings as an investment tool have led to soaring demand for financial planners.
While Mr Lee may have presented only one case study to the judging panel, that study incorporated his experience with hundreds of customers. "My case study was developed from personal experience and honestly speaking, demonstrated the diversification I have encountered as a financial planner over the years," he explains. "In my experience, it is commonplace for customers to approach us with expectations that do not match their ability to tolerate risk."
Mr Lee continues, "For example, the market is bubbling at the moment and I encounter customers who want a 20 to 30 per cent return on their assets, but who are not in a position to bear any risk. To help such customers, I would first need to understand the level of risk that could be tolerated and then devise a realistic return accordingly. No hard and fast rule exists detailing how to lead a customer down the appropriate investment path. It requires tact and intelligence to advise and educate the cross section of customers we encounter."
Obviously it also takes more than financial knowledge to be a financial planner. "Quite often, I touch on personal issues because otherwise I cannot offer a viable solution to my clients. These are the times when my customers can become emotional and as a financial planner I am warmed by their ability to confide in me," Mr Lee adds.
A positive "no"
To be a successful financial planner, means sometimes saying "no" to customers, underlines Mr Lee.
"If a customer does not understand the risks involved in the investment, requests an unrealistic return or refuses to listen, then I would have no alternative but to turn them away," he laments.
"Winning customers is not the issue here. Investing another person's money in such circumstances would only result in a negative experience for the customer if I followed his or her direction. The bottom line is that intransigent customers who demand unrealistic returns compromise the system of basic values a financial planner must respect — essentially to help people reach their goals," Mr Lee explains.
Mr Lin stresses that educating customers on the risks associated with financial investment tools is a key responsibility of financial planners. Similar to a doctor's responsibility to safeguard the health of a patient, financial planners must assess the "financial health" of a customer and tailor-make an investment plan that achieves realistic goals.
Overall, Mr Lee believes that the event was a meaningful experience and strongly recommends his colleagues take part next year. "This is the first time I entered the HKIB Contest and it has proved a very positive experience in my financial planning career," he concludes.