A regular exchange of views between local universities and finance sector employers helps ensure the relevance and development of different course modules, according to one academic. 'In terms of what is needed, we speak to the banks and other institutions and try to upgrade our programmes as necessary,' said Professor Louis Cheng of Hong Kong Polytechnic University's school of accounting and finance. 'Responding to changes, I believe nearly all the local universities now have some personal financial management courses and, in general, are looking to strengthen the teaching of the wealth management dimension.' Prior to the financial crisis, he noted, a broad trend saw business courses moving towards more study of 'sophisticated' areas of investment banking and the latest instruments as an underlying theme. But the fact that recent enrolment for programmes focusing on these areas has declined suggests students, at least, have learned the lessons of the meltdown. The signs are they realise a firm grasp of the day-to day practicalities of sound investment will initially stand them in better stead than time spent understanding, say, the complexities of high-risk derivatives. And that is something the universities are picking up on. 'At the moment, it is probably more vision than reality because these things tend to change quite slowly,' Cheng said. 'But there is a need in the industry [for more graduates with financial planning knowledge], so it makes sense to bring in more aspects and integrate them in the curriculum.' This reflects an ongoing integration of the subjects studied for professional qualifications, like the broader CFP (certified financial planner) and the more investment-related CFA (chartered financial analyst). In the past few years, it has become very apparent that whether an adviser works for a bank, an insurance company, or an independent wealth management firm, clients expect all-round advice, not a narrow conversation about one type of investment. 'Today you also need a more robust knowledge of things like insurance and the principles of good financial planning,' Cheng said. On the plus side the academic and professional sectors in Hong Kong had close links and similar approaches. As guest lecturers or adjunct professors, professionals clearly brought expertise and ideas to the classroom. In doing so, they helped to transfer a practical knowledge of financial planning topics to the academic community by first developing modules and then teaching them to students. 'They understand how the regulations are applied and have a perspective on the latest products and services,' Cheng said.