There is no blueprint for success at the SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards, but one thing is certain: good preparation is vital.
"In some ways, taking part in the competition is like a revision class," says Rosetta Fong, chief executive officer of Convoy Financial Services.
Its consultants have taken home many top prizes over the years. "It reminds contestants how important it is to take a holistic approach to financial planning and makes them review the way they deal with clients," Fong adds.
Over three rounds, the awards test the full range of professional attributes - product knowledge, written proposals, interpersonal skills, and discerning clients' needs. This echoes day-to-day situations and ensures the best prepared, most adept entrant from each category - banking, insurance and independent financial advisory (IFA) - stands out.
Convoy makes a point each year of encouraging staff to enter. The company sees it as a great chance for both experienced and junior consultants to sharpen their skills and discover what they still need to improve upon.
"In their day-to-day meetings, financial planners may start to see and do things a certain way and ask clients the same questions," Fong says. "Taking part in the awards, they have to present [complex cases] and explain what their advice would be in different situations. This is a reminder of the need for comprehensive client proposals and to follow the six recommended steps of good financial planning."
To help entrants, Convoy provides advice and support. It begins with managers and past winners outlining what is involved. The training department then provides general comments about the design and content of written submissions and PowerPoint slides. Coaching sessions offer tips on presentation style and an in-house panel gives a taster of what it is like to field questions.
"The first impression you make on the judges - and on clients - [is equally important]," says Fong. "You must appear professional, mature, trustworthy and honest."
Fong puts Convoy's lead in cumulative individual and company awards down to a couple of key factors. The first is that if you don't enter, you are not going to win. An important corollary, though, is that future winners often gain invaluable experience by trying and then trying again.
"They regard the first attempts as preparation," Fong says.
The second essential is to select a good case study for the initial submission. It needs enough "ingredients" in terms of the client's financial standing, family circumstances, ambitions and choices to give scope for ideas and alternatives.
"Winning isn't easy, but all the hard work pays off," Fong says. "It creates confidence in one's own brand and in the company."
She notes that the awards, since their inception in 2005, have made a significant contribution to the industry.
Tracing a parallel arc, Convoy has achieved major advances over the same period. The company listed in Hong Kong last year, continues to recruit steadily, and is looking for new opportunities to expand in mainland China and Singapore.
"This marks another stage in our development... Our policy is to go for healthy growth," Fong says.
October 8 The panel of judges and their insights PLUS updates from Financial Express
October 12 Awards night reports PLUS Standard Chartered Bank
October 15 Reviews and previews