• Fri
  • Aug 22, 2014
  • Updated: 5:10am

Only the strongest survive

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2012, 12:00am

Like the Olympics, just taking part in the SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards 2012 is already a mark of distinction. It gives contestants the chance to test themselves against the best in the sector and, in doing so, to hone the professional skills and industry knowledge that are so vital in day-to-day dealings with clients.

But for those who advance to the later rounds of the competition, special praise is reserved. At various stages, they will have to demonstrate not just all-round excellence in preparing a financial plan, but also coolness under fire when handling pinpoint questions from an expert panel of judges.

It is the breadth and scale of that challenge that has made participation in the awards an important career step for many practitioners in Hong Kong, with winning one of the categories a coveted ambition.

'These are the only awards that recognise financial planning excellence across three industry sectors - banking, insurance and independent financial adviser,' says Dennis Lau, CEO of the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong. 'By taking part in the competition, financial planners get to measure themselves against other talented individuals and to strive for a higher level of personal performance. It also gives them an opportunity to interact with peers and learn what is happening elsewhere in the industry.'

Now in their eighth year, the awards have won a reputation for stringency and helping to promote best practice within the sector. Organisers have also moved with the times by adjusting the main competition format when necessary, and progressively introducing new features and categories to encourage involvement from university students and the public at large.

Besides developing talent, a complementary aim all along has been to increase general awareness of the need for long-term financial planning and the advisability of following a recommended six-step process.

'We want to emphasise the importance of method and continuity in planning and make sure people have the right perception of the industry,' Lau says.

This year, the main practitioner category again consists of three rounds. The first requires contestants to write up a financial proposal, based on information from an actual client. This serves as a realistic test of each entrant's ability to conduct a comprehensive analysis and provide tailor-made advice suitable for the client's income and objectives.

Round two entails a detailed financial plan and an oral presentation of the written plan before a panel of judges. Using a basic role-play format, the challenge is to communicate ideas effectively and show in-depth knowledge if put on the spot by a specific line of questioning.

Those qualifying for the final round must then tackle a case study, preparing a plan for a fictitious client, who inevitably faces financial headaches, and presenting with graphics before fielding queries from a full line-up of judges. 'This year, we added a client data questionnaire, which all practitioners had to complete when submitting their initial case,' Lau says. 'It serves as a standard backgrounder and a basis for the financial plan, but also reminds participants of the need to gather correct client data, including goals, as one the six essential steps.'

Another encouraging development is the increased number of entries from the banking community. In overall terms, their total has not always matched the insurance and independent financial adviser sectors, but this implies a new awareness of the competition's value in improving both process and performance.

'It is a good sign,' Lau says. 'One mission of the IFPHK is to influence corporate leaders to uphold the highest standards of financial planning, and the increased participation [of staff] in the awards shows a dedication to doing that.'

In other respects, he is similarly pleased by the support of industry experts, who give their time and experience each year, devising case studies and as competition judges. They are drawn from a variety of regulatory bodies, educational institutions and leading employers in the financial services sector, ensuring that all contestants get a tough but fair assessment.

'We also hope that, through interaction with the judges, participants gain new insights that will help in working with clients and building a successful career,' Lau says.

The financial planner's role, he notes, is not simply to recommend investments that should make money. It goes well beyond that to include also everything from insurance planning and risk management to tax considerations and long-term estate planning.

'The competition reflects all these aspects,' Lau says. 'Contestants really have to show that they can safeguard their clients' wealth and take full account of different family, career and retirement needs.'

FIRST-ROUND WINNERS

Banking

Ivan Tang Ho-wai

Stephanie Tang Ho-yan

IFA

Franco Chu Chun-on

Charles Ming Chi-hang

Louis Au Kin-hang

Albert Chan Chun

Will Chan Chun-kong

Jim Chan Chun-wing

Fox Chan Kwai-fung

Stephanie Chan Wing-chiu

Wilson Chan Wai-chung

Angel Chan Yim-hung

Joyce Cheng

Ken Cheuk Kam-fai

Sam Cheung Wai

Edwin Cheung Yin-ming

Andy Cheung Yu-hong

Terry Chin Tai-yen

Ken Chiu Pui-yin

Kevin Fung Ka-ki

Cherry He Jiaqi

Shion Ho Wai

Sinki Ip Sin-ki

Erica Lee Hoi-ching

Lee King-sing

Catherine Lo Ka-hei

Doris Lo Lai-shan

Jenny Lo Wing-yan

Queenie Mak Chung-hang

Steven Mok Kai-cheung

KK Ng Kam-kwan

Kelvin Ngan Shing-wai

Angel Ting Ka-ying

Alan To Cheuk-lun

Charles Wong Cheuk-lam

Eliza Wong Kin-man

Nicholas Wong Lai-yu

Debbie Wong Sze-wai

Colin Wong Tin-kong

Monica Yeung Leung Yuen-fun

Mabel Yip Ka-po

Esther Yip Sin-wah

Roy Li Sze-kit

Insurance

Winson Leung Kin-kwok

Raymond Suen Ming-ka

Wilson Wan Cheuk-kit

Edmond Young Hon-man

Kenneth Chan Kin-lung

Wan Nga-lee

Joey Cheung Chi-wang

Cheung Kam-wing

Eddie Chow Kin-yip

Roxanne Kwan Ho

Leo Leung Wing-kwan

Christina Liu Ying-chi

Raymond Lo Wai-pong

Mak Hung-pun

Tam Man-yee

Doris Tang Nui-on

Tse Siu-kuen

Nathaniel Wo Hung-hing

Catherine Wong Ching-mun

Wong Choi-ying

Wong Hoi-ying

Tracy Wong Ting

Germaine Wu Wing-man

Josephine Yeu Lai-wah

Vicky Yip Kwan-ting

Yip Tak-mei

WHAT'S NEXT

August 23

The second-round winners, the 2011 grand champion, plus the latest from Convoy

September 21

A report on the finalists' presentations and My Favourite Financial Planner' online voting

October 5

The judges' interview

October 10

Reports on the 2012 individual and industry winners

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