GETTING INTO BETTER financial shape can feel a bit like starting an exercise regime or taking up a musical instrument - it's a good idea but not today. Financial planners often despair at this attitude, informing clients that their financial situation could have been a lot better if they had sought professional advice earlier. 'It's a situation that often occurs. However, there are usually solutions,' said Kevin Coppard, general manager of The Fry Group, Hong Kong and China. Mr Coppard recommended putting the right plan in place as early as possible to take full advantage of financial opportunities - then monitoring and developing this strategy. British-based The Fry Group has been in operation since 1898 but set up its Hong Kong office only in 2001. 'Whatever stage you have reached in your life or career, it's common sense to make the most of your financial opportunities and investments,' Mr Coppard said. 'No matter what your age or income level, there are steps you can take to ensure a more secure financial future.' Mr Coppard, who deals mainly with British expatriates in Hong Kong, the mainland and Taiwan, said expats in Asia tended to be interested in a more dynamic allocation process than their counterparts in Britain. Clients were increasingly opting for a wider spread of assets. This included hedge funds, commercial property and commodities in addition to bonds and equities. Mr Coppard said studies had shown that portfolios containing more than one asset class tended to perform better and with lower volatility than those exposed to one asset. In this strategy, time horizons, financial objectives and risk profile needed to be taken into account. Clients should ensure their financial planners had access to fund managers and investment tools that could quickly take advantage of investment opportunities and, equally importantly, could withdraw if necessary, he said. It is important from the outset that clients understand the fee structure. In most cases, financial planners either charge the client a fee or earn a commission on the financial products they sell. To help clients establish realistic aims, The Fry Group asks them to attend an informal meeting and fill in a fact sheet. Married couples are encouraged to attend the meeting together to identify mutual objectives. Only then can the planner move on to other issues such as income growth or capital preservation.