China and the region are undergoing diverse changes and there is an even greater need for industry professionals to stay ahead of the curve WITH THE RAPID changes taking place in China and in the region's financial markets, one way of understanding the new regulations and improving job opportunities is to obtain professional qualifications. According to the head of China research at ING Financial Markets, Peter So, professional financial qualifications and continuous learning helps him keep up to date with the latest financial products, services, technology and regulations. Dr So, a Certified International Investment Analyst, said the qualification allowed Hong Kong practitioners to earn an international qualification recognised in China. He said this was important as financial developments in China provided a platform for a broad range of career opportunities. 'Even busy financial professionals who are frequent travellers need to exercise time management to upgrade their knowledge and skills,' Dr So said. The qualification is recognised because the Securities Analysts Association of China is a member of the worldwide Association of Certified International Investment Analysts. The CIIA syllabus examines diverse areas of the financial industry, from the fundamentals of capital financing, mergers and acquisitions to the role of financial managers. 'The need for financial professionals to upgrade their skills and keep in touch with industry development is a must,' said Dr So, who is also a member of the Hong Kong Securities Institute. He said as China's financial sector underwent rapid reform and deregulation, qualified professionals would be needed in banking, insurance, pensions and the fund management industry. Financial planners and wealth management experts were also needed to help advise on and invest China's 1.3 trillion yuan of pent up wealth. Institute chairman Alec Tsui said to perform effectively in the rapidly evolving securities and investment market, practitioners constantly needed to upgrade their technical skills and knowledge. HKSI is a membership organisation established to set standards of excellence and integrity, and provide the means of attaining them. The institute is committed to providing professional training courses relevant to the needs of the securities and investment industry. Courses are offered in a variety of formats, ranging from entry-level financial courses for people wanting to work in the securities industry, to in-depth workshops and programmes for practitioners with different levels of competency. They include the Mandatory Provident Fund Intermediaries Examination, the PRC Securities Regulations Examination offered by the Securities Association of China, the HKSI Diploma Programme Examination (DPE) and the 15-hour CIIA exam. Mr Tsui said the DPE programme aimed to set one level of standard competency across the securities and investment industry. Candidates who completed the DPE would acquire a combination of high-level theoretical and practical skills. The programme includes economic analysis and financial modelling skills, investment analysis and portfolio management skills, and an overview of key legal and ethical issues for market practitioners. Applicants were expected to have some kind of relevant knowledge before they applied for registration. Candidates were also required to hold a HKSI Foundation Programme Examination, HKSI Licensing Examination for Securities and Futures Intermediaries, Diploma in HKSI Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management, a certificate/diploma in finance/investment from a recognised tertiary institution; or a recognised degree with a specialisation/major/minor study in a discipline such as business, finance, investment, economics or banking. In the past 12 months the HKSI has conducted 349 training courses for almost 16,000 professionals from brokerage firms, banks and insurance companies. The most popular topics included regulatory issues of the Securities and Futures Ordinance, money laundering, hedge fund investments, and bonds and fixed income.