Organisers of this year's Financial Planning Week, which began on September 20 and will run until Sunday, say that response has been strong despite the recent seismic shocks to hit the financial markets, including the bankruptcy of United States investment bank Lehman Brothers, the sale of Wall Street bellwether Merrill Lynch to rival Bank of America and the bailout of insurance giant AIG. Angeline Chin, chief executive of the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong, which is organising the week-long event, said its Financial Planning Conference today was fully booked. 'This indicates that financial planning professionals are really serious about their practice and they would like to learn more from the experts so they can better serve their clients,' she said. 'Because the market environment is volatile at this moment, many of our members would think that the conference is a value-adding platform to meet with great minds and share with peers.' In its fifth year, the annual week-long event will include a conference, two seminars and an expo being held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, with the dual roles of increasing consumer awareness about the importance of financial planning, and encouraging people to study the institute's certified financial planner (CFP) programme. 'The Financial Planning Week aims to increase the awareness of financial planning, and the important role that CFP professionals play in upholding high standards of ethical practice,' Ms Chin said. This year's themes - recruitment in the financial planning sector, and promoting the importance of financial planning to consumers - were chosen to reflect the trends in the marketplace, she said, adding that about 1,400 people were expected to participate in the conference and seminars. Ms Chin said that many of the institute's corporate members were continuing to hire financial planners, with the sector continuing to grow despite the general economic gloom. She said they were looking for a channel to reach potential employees who were interested in embarking on a career in financial planning. For consumers, the institute chose to focus on promoting financial planning because of its high relevancy during a period of economic uncertainty, when people would be looking for longer-term wealth preservation rather than shorter-term gain by direct investment, she said. For industry practitioners, a financial planing conference, being held today, will help them upgrade their skills and inform them about the latest developments in the sector. Guest speakers include Sandra Lee, chief executive for global equities and derivatives solutions in China at Societe Generale, Bruno Lee Kam-wing, head of wealth management personal financial services (Hong Kong) at HSBC, Lina Cheng, managing director and head of financial advisory services at BNP Paribas Private Bank, and Catherine Cheung, head of investment strategy and research at Citibank. The speakers will address topics ranging from the development of the Asia-Pacific wealth management industry, the use of structured products in asset allocation, investment strategies for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and the use of behavioural finance models by wealth management companies. A three-day consumer seminar also starts today. Representatives from Manulife, Prudential and Standard Life will be on hand to provide information about careers at their respective companies. Targeted at financial planners, two master classes in Cantonese will be held tomorrow. One will focus on how financial planners can figure out the retirement needs of clients, what attributes the ideal financial planner should have, and share investment strategies for pre-retirement and post-retirement planning. The other will explain the concepts behind structured products such as accumulators, capital protected notes, callable bull/bear contracts, warrants, bull equity linked notes and other equity linked instruments, the factors behind their use in the wealth management context, and the trends and outlook for structured products market next year. At the two-day career seminars, which also start tomorrow, speakers will talk about a range of issues from interview tips, to how certifications, such as the CFP, can help financial planners. Officials from financial services provider Altruist Financial Group, education software provider MindChamps, and the Open University of Hong Kong's Li Ka Shing Institute of Professional and Continuing Education will man counters to provide consumers and industry professionals with information about their respective organisations. Finally, there will be a consumer corner where qualified CFPs will answer queries from professionals and members of the public. For the first time since the institute began organising the Financial Planning Weeks, and in collaboration with the SMART Investment and International Property Expo, there will be a financial planning pavilion tomorrow and Sunday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. It will serve as a platform for financial planning services companies to meet with consumers. The two-day investment expo will also feature several other activities, such as a panel discussion with Hong Kong celebrity Nancy Sit, on how to teach children to handle money, discussing estate planning and tax matters, and investment opportunities on the mainland. Ms Chin said this year's event was being held against a backdrop of growth in demand for financial planning services, with the number of high-net-worth and mass-affluent individuals, and people approaching retirement age, on the rise. This demand has also been driven by growing awareness among consumers of the importance of retirement planning, better knowledge of the investment products available to them, the introduction of mandatory provident fund schemes, and a general shift in assets by consumers from large cash balances into managed funds. To be successful in this environment, she said that financial planners needed to have a combination of skills, ranging from robust technical knowledge of asset allocation and portfolio management, and strong business development and relationship management capabilities.