Awards set benchmark for industry

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 August, 2006, 12:00am

HONG KONG'S financial planning industry may still be young compared with some western countries but it is growing at an exponential rate and attracting many talented professionals whose abilities will be recognised in the upcoming SCMP/ IFPHK Financial Planner Awards.

'We felt the industry needed a benchmark,' said Angeline Chin, chief executive of the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK), explaining the background of the awards, now in their second year.

'The idea was to introduce a competition for local financial planners to gauge where they stand in terms of knowledge and their adoption of ethical practices. It also allows us to acknowledge rising stars, while raising public awareness about good financial planning.'

In doing this, the IFPHK also hopes to heighten Hong Kong's profile as a financial services hub and promote better understanding of the options available for personal wealth creation.

Ms Chin said professionals in the banking, insurance and independent financial advisory sectors might handle the financial planning process differently. Therefore, three separate award categories were established.

In the first two rounds candidates are assessed according to industry sector, age group and client age group.

To keep things realistic, they are asked to submit actual cases after obtaining the appropriate approvals.

'We designed the awards to ensure that the best in each sector will pit their skills against each other in the final round,' Ms Chin said.

'We believe that the winners could be the future leaders of the financial planning industry and key people involved in driving the business forward in the next few decades.'

Confirming this viewpoint is Michael Ho, a business manager for Prudential Assurance and one of last year's winners. He specialises in drawing up financial plans for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and is in the early stages of setting up his own agency team within Prudential.

Mr Ho said SME owners generally wanted to see a comprehensive analysis of their financial status. This meant he was in familiar territory when preparing for the written parts of the contest.

He said last year's success had given him and his colleagues a confidence boost about their practices and business model.

'Winning reaffirmed the fact that we are working with SMEs in the right way,' Mr Ho said.

'Other insurance industry awards are related to production or income. We believe, though, that clients are more concerned about your professionalism in explaining things clearly and building mutual trust.'

Mr Ho was confident that the exposure gained as an award winner would help him to recruit high-calibre staff and to convince more SME owners about the need for corporate continuity and financial planning.

He encouraged colleagues to enter this year's competition and said he was willing to pass on practical advice. This centred on the importance of presenting ideas and information precisely in the written submissions and before the panel of judges.

In dealing with the hypothetical case used in the final round, he suggested focusing on long-term financial requirements rather than ways to make quick returns on investment.

'You need a well thought out and complete planning process,' Mr Ho said. 'My approach was to emphasise that we provide a comprehensive service and want to help clients achieve financial security for the long term.'

Enoch Lo, associate with Convoy Financial Services, said that the final round case study required in-depth knowledge of all aspects of financial planning. He found that preparation was the key to success.

'In order to provide a quality solution, you have to do detailed research,' Mr Lo said.

'The judges are very experienced financial planning practitioners, so you can expect the questions they raise to be extremely challenging.'

He saw entering last year's competition as an ideal way to put

his ability and professionalism to

the test.

He said it turned out to be a very fruitful experience, and a chance to make new friends and contacts. Winning gave him greater self-assurance, but also brought more publicity than expected.

But this had immediate knock-on benefits: it led to more interest and inquiries from potential new clients. 'Besides that, I am now building a team of consultants and the award has helped me recruit quality people,' Mr Lo said.

Two things originally motivated Albert Mak, who is the senior division sales manager, central division with HSBC, to take part in the competition last year.

Firstly, there was the personal challenge of competing against his peers. And secondly, he wanted to set an example to other members of his team and support the financial planning industry in Hong Kong.

He said one unanticipated benefit had been the opportunity to meet and share experiences with the other winners.

'In particular, I had the chance to go to a financial planning conference in Sydney and have certainly gained more professional confidence,' Mr Mak said.

He said the most difficult part of the contest was completing the final round plan in less than two weeks while still maintaining a full work schedule.

His advice to this year's participants was to pay careful attention to time management, especially when it came to the 30 minutes allowed for presentations to the judges.

'You should be able to highlight the main points and focus clearly on customer needs,' he said.

In considering the overall value of the awards, Ms Chin of the IFPHK said that recognising the winners was only half the story.

'The winners will provide an effective benchmark for the industry to build upon and improve further, while encouraging newcomers to perform as well or even better,' she said.

Financial Planner Awards Presentation DInner

Date October 4, 2006

Venue Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre

Contact Elaine Wong of IFPHK at 2982 7863 or email: