INSURANCE AWARD WINNER JOHNNY CHAN KA-HING entered the SCMP/IFPHK 2006 Financial Planner Awards because he thought the competition would raise public awareness about financial planning and the industry and also help build his clients' trust and confidence in his abilities as a financial planner. On learning that he was a finalist in the insurance sector, he sent an e-mail to all of his 400-plus clients to let them know about his success. Their feedback was encouraging. 'They said that the competition proved that I had achieved a certain standard in my profession and that I should keep going. Many of them said that they had watched me growing up over the past 12 years,' Mr Chan said. As the winner of the Best of the Industry trophy in the insurance sector, he has now proved to his clients that he has the ability to serve them well. He has been doing so since he joined the Prudential Assurance Company following graduation from the University of Hong Kong with a degree in economics in 1994. At that time, many of his clients were fresh graduates and have since married, had children and gained more financial responsibilities. 'The biggest satisfaction over the past 12 years has been working with my clients and being with them as they enter different life cycles. I am helping them accumulate enough money for their children's university fees or for their retirement. It is the greatest satisfaction because I am able to help them,' said Mr Chan, now a senior business manager with Prudential. He learned a lot of economic theory at university, including budgets and international finance. But no professor helped him learn about personal financial planning. Whereas graduates now might have a grasp of basic personal finances, at the time Mr Chan knew nothing about it and neither did most of his classmates. 'I wanted to widen my horizons so I joined the industry to know more about it. It was a great challenge for me,' he said. In his job-searching process he met a fellow graduate of the University of Hong Kong who worked for Prudential. He introduced Mr Chan to a Prudential career programme, which took place over several days and demonstrated the role and processes involved in financial planning. Mr Chan agreed to join the company. 'Many of my colleagues at that time had been working for more than 10 years in this industry. I appreciated their integrity and professional knowledge and I chose to join the company and work with them. Now I too have worked with them for more than 10 years,' he said. As well as his Certified Financial Planner designation gained in 2002, Mr Chan is also a Fellow, Life Management Institute, Fellow, Life Underwriter Training Council, and a part-time lecturer in insurance and financial planning at the Vocational Training Council. But when he joined Prudential he sold only life insurance before specialising in other areas as the company began to launch new financial planning products such as funds. He is now skilled in several areas, including systematic investment planning, insurance financial planning, retirement planning and estate planning. Keeping up to date with market and product knowledge is crucial. 'It requires a lot of time attending conferences and seminars in Hong Kong and overseas. And you have to study,' Mr Chan said. 'It is really important to know the most recent developments. You can sharpen your sword only if you know the latest ideas. And the market is changing so fast. You have to equip yourself with the latest knowledge.' Mr Chan's job responsibility is to serve his health-care professional practice clients, a roll-call of more than 400 doctors and nurses. He contacts each client every six months and attempts to meet them once a year to review their financial plan and update it according to market developments and life cycle demands. Successful financial planning came as a result of soft skills and hard skills, Mr Chan said. 'You have to have a passion - a passion for your work and your clients, and a passion for excellence. But you most also know the products and there are so many and they are so diversified,' he said. 'Everyone has the potential to become a successful financial planner. The key point is not what you learned before you joined the industry, it's what you acquire after you join the industry.'