Competition boosts status
That may be from the background research and study done to prepare for the initial written submission. It could also be from having to improve communication skills needed to explain and impress more effectively. Or, it may result from the greater self-confidence and new business contacts that can be expected to come with success.
"I'm convinced the competition is very important for career development and enhancing standards of professionalism in the industry," says Fong, whose company is a main sponsor of the event. "The format emphasises the need for a holistic approach to financial planning, and the judges want to see contestants putting the needs of their clients first."
Her advice to Convoy's consultants is that they should aim to take part in the competition at least once in their careers. Doing so obliges them to conduct a thorough review of recommended practices, look at the full range of investment options, relevant regulations and likely client requirements.
It also allows them to test their mettle - not just against other planners from the independent financial advisory sector - against entrants in the insurance and banking categories.
"Our training department and our past winners are always ready to give support and advice," Fong says. "We will offer some guidelines on how to choose a case and on what needs to be included. However, the contestants have to do all the basic research. The main thing is they improve as professionals."
In advance of round two, the company may go a step further by arranging drills with groups of colleagues for its remaining contestants. The intention is to give them a feel for what it will be like to present their case before a panel of industry judges and take follow-up questions.
As a test, that obviously differs from the typical face-to-face encounter with a client, it deliberately lays stress on the need for clear exposition, excellent presentation skills and complete mastery of the subject matter.
"The first priority for any financial planner should be to provide independent advice and think of the benefits for the client; it is not just to sell products," Fong says. "The competition emphasises this and, therefore, is helping to raise standards across the industry."
Fong notes that, in the not-too-distant past, "everyone" could claim to be a financial planner. But as a measure of the sector's increasing maturity, clients and employers now expect to see professional qualifications. Fong regards such developments as nothing but positive, well aware that referrals from satisfied clients are the basis for future expansion.