Banking professionals are in an industry that requires constant upgrades to their skills to meet the demands in the financial market. 'Hong Kong needs to prepare for possible worsening of the European sovereign debt problems and the consequential shocks on the global financial system and the real economy,' Norman Chan, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), said recently in a speech, urging the public to stay vigilant. 'The HKMA has introduced a series of counter-cyclical supervisory measures requiring banks to continue to strengthen risk management,' Chan says. 'The purpose of all these is to strengthen the resilience of Hong Kong's banking and financial systems, so that they can cope with possible turbulences and shocks in the future.' In July this year, the HKMA issued a set of guidelines for authorised institutions (AIs) to monitor and maintain the competency of their employees and cultivate ethical behaviour. AIs refer to licensed banks, restricted licence banks, and deposit-taking companies in Hong Kong's three-tier system of deposit-taking institutions. As of end 2010, there were 146 licensed banks, 21 restricted licence banks and 26 deposit-taking companies in operation in the city, according to the HKMA. Under the latest guideline - titled the 'Supervisory Policy Manual CG-6: Competence and Ethical Behaviour' - AIs in Hong Kong should engage and deploy employees with adequate skills, knowledge, experience and judgment. Professional training is recognised as the essential component in AIs' mechanisms for enhancing employees' competency. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) has introduced the Accredited Banking Practitioner programme for bank employees or individuals aspiring to go into the field, says Carrie Leung, HKIB chief executive officer. 'This programme aims to provide foundation knowledge through three core courses on banking service and professional ethics, fundamentals of accounting and law in banking, and financial systems and risk management. When students pass the examinations, they attain the Diploma in Banking and Financial Services,' Leung says. Other HKIB programmes, including the Certified Professional - Associate of the HKIB, and Certified Financial Management Planner, have been designed to sustain and augment the competence and professionalism of banking professionals.