If you have any doubts about Hong Kong's wealth management industry being in rapid expansion mode, take a look at the publicity generated just this week. In the space of a few days, three major news stories on wealth management and financial planning appeared in the media. First, there was the survey conducted by the Hong Kong Baptist University, which said there was a need for professionals to fill the largely untapped market for financial planners. The study estimated that Hong Kong needed between 20,000 and 30,000 more financial planners to meet the potential demand. On the same day, the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK) held a conference which brought financial experts together to discuss the challenges and issues facing the wealth management industry. What was impressive - and to the organisers' credit - was that the topics on the agenda were not limited to those that would have a direct impact on only investment professionals or wealth managers. Ample discussion time was devoted to the roles other professions, such as law and accounting, could play in the development of the financial planning industry. But the story that Money Week found most exciting was the confirmation that the second Financial World Expo would be held in Hong Kong, in October. It was from last year's expo that we came across some unconventional financial services firms, such as a will-writing company. The event, which drew more than 12,000 visitors to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre over three days last year, will play host to a range of financial professionals, including insurance providers, fund managers and independent financial advisers, all showing off their latest products. IFPHK, which hosts the event, estimates visitors will top 20,000 this year, with many of them coming from the mainland and countries around Asia. People wary of being harassed by legions of so-called 'investment advisers' should take heart from our experience last year, when, save from a few truly desperate souls, most participants tended to refrain from over-the-top sales pitches - probably mindful of their watchful peers. The grey area of banking Thanks to increased competition and low interest rates over the past few years, the profit margin on lending has been contracting rapidly, forcing banks to look for alternative sources of income. Insurance is one area the banks have invaded. The introduction of the Mandatory Provident Fund in 2000 strongly focused the public's awareness on the need to save for retirement. Unit-linked policies designed by insurance companies to attract more customers became the hottest financial products in a very short space of time, prompting banks to jump on the bandwagon. Thanks to their large customer base and Hong Kong's relatively loose insurance regulations, retail banks now have a significant share of the insurance market. HSBC Life last year ranked top in generating new life business, overtaking rival American International Assurance for the first time. The question is: will the same happen in other areas, namely stockbroking? Judging from HSBC's swift decision this week to lower its margin finance rates for subscriptions to China Shenhua Energy's initial public offering, it seems brokers have cause for concern. In an apparent attempt to lock in customers for this month's other heavyweight share offerings, including Bank of Communications and China Cosco Holdings, HSBC has also had the good grace to announce a series of special offers on all initial public offering subscriptions this month. These include waiving the $50 handling fee for online offer subscriptions, while customers opening a new margin trading account will enjoy a $50 flat brokerage fee on all stock trades up to $200,000, provided the transactions are done online or through phone-banking. structurally guaranteed Belgian structured-product specialist KBC this week launched an Asian Growth Capital Guaranteed Fund that offers a 7.6 per cent guaranteed coupon for an investment period of four years. The fund's performance is tied to 15 listed companies from various industries in four Asian markets - Hong Kong, the mainland, Thailand and South Korea.