Convoy Financial Services has triumphed as Hong Kong's Best Company for Financial Planning Excellence for the second year running in the SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards, winning the top award in the independent financial advisory (IFA) category. 'This award came to us again because we have very good consultants who did well in all four previous years, and they have shared their accumulated experience with this year's participants. This was a big benefit for all our entrants in the awards, giving them more confidence to participate,' said Rosetta Fong, director, sales and marketing, Convoy Financial Services. Convoy has been a regular supporter of the SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards, sponsoring its staff to take part in each of the past four years since the awards began. Established in 1993, the IFA firm now has more than 800 professional consultants comprising the largest IFA consulting force in Hong Kong. This year, 70 of Convoy's consultants entered the competition; 14 made it into the first round, six into the second round and one consultant was a finalist in the My Favourite Financial Planner category, a new award introduced by the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK) to encourage public participation. Ms Fong said that for this year's award entrants, in addition to proving their professionalism through the process of taking part, participation in the awards also helped them improve their consultation skills. 'It doesn't matter whether they win an award or not, the awards are a process for our consultants to learn and improve their consultation skills. Whether they are facing the judges or simply getting constructive criticism on their proposal from our internal training department, participation and preparation for the awards is a very good way for them to improve their financial planning standards.' Convoy consultants intending to enter the awards joined an internal company briefing session, where winners of the previous years' competitions shared their experiences, answered questions and endeavoured to pass on any information that might help this year's entrants in their preparation. While there is no direct financial or monetary reward for being a winner, when their clients become aware of their success they tend to place more trust in their consultants and are more comfortable with them. As a result, Ms Fong said, consultants usually obtained more client referrals. 'Previous winners say that they have more referrals after they have received an SCMP/IFPHK award. We also make sure their clients know their good news by sending out letters to notify them that their consultants are award winners.' Convoy also encouraged its consultants to participate with the lure of an all-expenses paid weekend break to Macau for the winners, this year at the MGM Grand Macau. This year's participation process also saw Convoy involve its training department to provide participants with a greater level of preparation for the ultimate test in front of judges during the two-round elimination process before the finals. Convoy's first and second round winners were able to send their proposals to the training department a week ahead of the competition deadline and experienced members of the department helped screen their proposals and helped them see where and how they could be improved. Participants who made it to the second round, which entailed an oral presentation of their submitted case from the first round, were also given presentation skills training and on-the-spot drilling sessions to simulate the pressured environment in front of the judges, Ms Fong said. 'The standards this year are definitely an improvement over last year's, and each year they get higher,' she said. 'This is because our consultants and the award participants from other companies and organisations in Hong Kong are learning from their experiences and are trying hard to improve and raise their standards,' she said. She said that part of this improvement in standards was also attributable to an increase in the number of consultants who wanted to further their education through choosing to study for the CFP qualification that the IFPHK offered in Hong Kong. More Convoy consultants were working towards the CFP certification which, Ms Fong said, was an indication of the desire to continually improve their standards.