The Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK) has launched a foundation-level programme to equip financial services professionals and candidates interested in entering the financial advisory field with the knowledge to advance their careers. The International Certificate for Financial Advisers (ICFA) course, which was developed by the British-based Chartered Insurance Institute, provides candidates with a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of financial services, including how to work with clients and the application of various types of financial product. The programme places emphasis on ethics and professional behaviour, which the IFPHK claims is a unique feature of the syllabus. The IFPHK said the ICFA was not merely another localised version of an international examination, but had been adapted to provide a local context for professionals. Candidates do not study just international principles, but their practical application in Hong Kong. IFPHK executive director for development Angeline Chin said: 'The result is an internationally recognised foundation programme that combines international and local knowledge and practice, while grounding candidates in international ethics.' The International Certificate for Financial Advisers is aimed at financial services professionals, customer relationship officers, insurance agents and stockbrokers looking to attain internationally recognised basic qualifications in financial planning with the view of expanding their career. The IFPHK said the qualification was suitable for people from other professions and fresh graduates who wanted to start a career in financial services. The Certified Financial Planner qualification, also licensed by the IFPHK, is an advanced diploma programme aimed at professionals with more work experience. Ms Chin said there was a gap in the market for such a foundation-level qualification. 'Until now, there hasn't been a recognised basic qualification in Hong Kong for insurance agents and other professionals involved in financial planning,' she said. The syllabus can be divided into three parts. The first focuses on clients' needs and providing professional advice, as well as fact-finding and best practice. The second deals with knowledge and application of insurance, savings and investment, and retirement products. The third deals with the regulatory framework and tax law in Hong Kong. Chartered Insurance Institute international development manager Paul Brierley said: 'The Hong Kong market is to be applauded for leading the way by being the first to add specific local content.' A Chinese language examination will be made available from next April. 'This is the first time the programme has been localised into another language, so it's a significant development for the Chartered Insurance Institute,' Mr Brierley said. The Chartered Insurance Institute is regarded as a leading organisation for professionals working in the insurance and financial services industry. It aims to promote higher standards of competence and integrity in the financial services industry through the provision of relevant training and qualifications. The organisation has more than 70,000 members and has been setting professional standards in the insurance industry for more than 100 years.