Organiser aims to help people of different ages understand the various products and services available and how best to plan for the future NEWS OF THE hottest stocks permeate dinner conversations; MTR commuters are glued to the financial pages; investment books line the best-seller shelves of bookstores. Hong Kong people have developed an intense interest in financial investment, but few fully understand what they are investing in and often do not plan their investments properly, say financial planning experts. One problem facing the industry is Hong Kong peoples' focus on making quick returns rather than financial planning for the long-term. According to a Fidelity Investments Management survey earlier this year, 66 per cent of Hong Kong employees do not have investment goals for retirement, while 58 per cent have little knowledge about retirement investment. 'The derivative warrants market in Hong Kong has one of the highest turnovers in the world because people are generally still thinking short-term and are willing to take significant risks to make quick profits,' Pegasus Fund Managers managing director Paul Pong said. 'But it is crucial for people to understand that investment is only one part of financial planning. Other elements such as insurance, financial protection and wealth distribution are equally important.' There were about 1.4 million investors of equity; the highest growth market, against 20 per cent of that (about 280,000 investors) in the warrant market, a notoriously volatile and risky product, Mr Pong said. And, although the level of financial knowledge had improved over the past 10 years, especially with the introduction of the Mandatory Provident Fund that had prompted further diversification into unit trusts, Mr Pong said further financial education was necessary to better prepare people for the future. The get-rich-quick mentality was expected to change as people became more knowledgeable about their investment choices in the context of a more stable Hong Kong-China environment, he said. This is why the Financial World Expo, organised by the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong, an annual event launched two years ago, has come at a particularly pertinent time. Its aim is to raise the bar on financial education and improve investor knowledge, while also giving institutions a platform to exchange views on the condition and future of the financial services industry. In line with the government's plan to support the city's financial industry and preserve its status as an international financial trade and shipping centre, this year's World Financial Expo, held from today until Sunday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, promises to be the best yet as the organiser honed in on market trends and subjects most useful to investors. Mr Pong, who is also task force chairman of the Financial World Expo, said: 'We have done a lot more publicity this year. When we started, few people knew about the expo, but this year we have placed advertorials in target consumer magazines and advertised in newspapers and on television. In particular, we have done a lot of publicity in Guangdong and hope to attract more mainland visitors.' Catering for novices and sophisticates with years of investment experience, the three-day event will showcase the financial products and services of more than 60 financial institutions. Participating companies will have expertise in banking, insurance, financial planning, fund and asset management, stockbroking, investment and retirement planning, estate planning, accounting, legal, offshore business, mandatory provident funds, overseas property development and sales, money management, running a listed company and alternative investment strategies. Financial giants ABN Amro Bank, Bank of China, Fidelity Investments Management, HSBC Investments, JF Asset Management and Manulife, among others, have signed up to exhibit. Visitors will be able to choose from more than 40 seminars, with offerings designed to address basic financial planning to more complex products such as warrants and arbitrages. 'The expo is open to anyone, regardless of how much you have to invest. Newcomers can get a basic step-by-step guide on how to invest and manage their portfolios, while more advanced investors can learn about complicated financial tools,' Mr Pong said. A key objective is to offer visitors a one-stop shop integrating all aspects of financial learning - from wealth protection to fund management and wealth distribution to knowledge of other financial products - under one roof. New areas this year include wealth distribution, tax, stocks and property. The expo will target the elderly, middle aged and those in their 20s. Mr Pong said the expo had been re-engineered to become more consumer-focused, particularly because the seminars, given by renowned financial commentators and financial institutions, would be a dialogue. 'The seminar format will be very interactive. It won't just be the experts telling you what they think, but visitors will be able to ask questions specific to their needs,' Mr Pong said. Themes to be covered include tax, unit trusts, equities, wealth distribution and overseas property. One of the biggest advantages will be the opportunity to gain ample knowledge in a limited time and the chance to make comparisons between corporations' products. The organiser projects visitor numbers this year to exceed 30,000; up from last year's 25,000, mainly from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, although the plan is to one day make the event a more important one for the region. 'The seminars will be presented by financial commentators, each with their unique investment style. We believe the event will draw a diverse crowd,' Mr Pong said. quick facts What is it? Financial World Expo is the only expo in the Asia-Pacific which covers the full financial planning and wealth management products and services When is it happening? October 6 and 7 from 10:30am - 7:30pm, and October 8 from 10:00am - 6:30pm Where is it taking place? Hall 7, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai Who should attend? People interested in finding out more about financial planning and wealth management. How much is admission? HK$20 per person Billion dollar showdown Billion Dollar Showdown is a series of panel discussions involving prominent financial services experts and businessmen organised by the IFPHK for expo visitors. Highlights of this year's panel discussions include: Maximising your wealth building potential or retire early. This session hosted by Janice Lui, programme host on Metro Finance radio station, will give attendees a chance to hear how successful businessmen approach wealth management. Reaping the rewards from high-risk investments. Tsang Chi-ying, host of a popular financial radio show, oversees a session in which investment experts talk about how individual investors can minimise risks when investing in stocks and warrants. Investing in bonds for appreciable returns. Paul Pong, executive director of Pegasus Fund Managers, hosts a session in which experts discuss conservative investment instruments and asset allocation. Becoming a successful investor. Arthur Shek, associate publisher and head of research at Hong Kong Economic Times, leads a session discussing discipline and new theories in investing.