True test

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2008, 12:00am

Real challenge begins with the next phase of contest

Undergraduate teams, who entered the student category of the SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards 2008, may have spent hours evaluating investment options and reworking their calculations to come up with a dazzling case study, but the next phase of the competition is likely to prove even tougher.

Entrants will already have realised that successful financial planning is a complex business. It takes more than in-depth research and number crunching, all of which counts for nothing if the client sees no reason to accept the advice or, worse, ends up feeling more confused than enlightened.

Therefore, the soft skills needed to engage, explain, convince and agree on a course of action with the client are an essential part of the financial planner's armoury.

'There was a lot to learn about communication and dealing with people,' said Tsang Chun-yin, a member of last year's winning student team. 'When it came to the oral presentations, we realised it was important to give clients [the judges] confidence that we were acting in their interests. That meant giving reasons for everything and explaining how the plan would help their financial situation.'

He said when facing the judges, his team had made a point of clearly defining the goals of their plan. This also made it easier to decide which information to include, and gave a structure to what they wanted to say.

Man Wing-lok, whose Hong Kong Polytechnic University team was runner-up last year, said whoever made it through to the second round had to be ready for a different kind of test.

'The presentation was the most difficult part,' he said.

'We had to role play and only had a short time to prepare. I remember being quite nervous before so many judges.'

He felt the key to success was being 100 per cent sure that all the calculations in the written submission were spot on, and allowing each team member to play a full part.