As the overall champion at last year's SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards, Willie Yiu knows exactly what this year's three finalists have been going through.
He clearly remembers, for instance, the intense period of preparation spent analysing a complex case study, and putting together a concise, fluent presentation with enough detail to impress all the judges.
But he also recalls the building sense of excitement as the final round approached, knowing this chance to prove his professional expertise would, if things went well, open up all kinds of career opportunities.
"To a fair extent, the title speaks for itself," says Yiu, who worked for a leading independent financial advisory at the time of his win, but has subsequently been appointed business development manager with the Fry Group in Hong Kong.
"After winning, you just find people are more willing to talk to you. Clients - and possible employers - have confidence that you are able to devise investment strategies, deliver advice clearly, and help to implement plans efficiently."
Looking back, he feels several factors contributed to his success. As a competitor, it was important to understand what the judges were looking for: sound knowledge of the principles of financial planning, good time management, appropriate advice, and a personable manner. As a professional in the sector, however, it also made sense to set out alternatives for the client, and show what might happen if, in their present circumstances, they took no action.
"Besides covering the basic points in my presentation, I wanted to paint a picture showing the implications and the different outcomes if the client [did] or didn't take my advice," Yiu says. "I also tried to illustrate how my recommendations would change their monthly cash flow and savings, and made it easy for anyone to understand with charts and different colours."
Yiu also tried to put himself in the judges' shoes throughout his preparations and rehearsals. This made him focus on the essentials of the case and helped in anticipating the questions that were likely to come up during the question-and-answer session.
As broad advice for this year's finalists, Yiu suggests a prior run-through with peers and colleagues, and with friends from outside the financial planning industry. The key is to demonstrate a full understanding of the client's situation, and how best to achieve their short and long-term objectives.
"Your presentation must be easily understood by people who aren't experts," he says. "Focus on what you can control, and remember that markets don't always move up."