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IFPHK awards boost standards

Reflecting on the success of this year’s SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards, Steve Chiu, chairman of the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK), has good reason to find one aspect especially pleasing.

“Standards in both the practitioner and university student categories are getting higher,” he says. “Throughout the competition, contestants showed excellent all-round knowledge of investment products and the industry’s recommended best practices.”

That is due cause for satisfaction since the founding purpose of the event was to inspire just that: higher levels of professionalism and broader awareness of the importance of
comprehensive, client-focused, longterm financial planning.

“The three finalists were particularly impressive in the way they tackled the issues presented in the hypothetical case,” Chiu says. “It was designed to test their abilities in assessing difficult situations and applying practical knowledge and strategies. Each of them demonstrated a very professional approach in making recommendations which took full account of the client’s personal goals and values.”

Doing that is just what the IFPHK and employers across the financial services sector have been teaching for the past decade or more. Their emphasis has been squarely on training staff to understand and meet the needs of individual clients, covering everything from investments to children’s education planning.

“There are six basic steps we teach in the financial-planning process,” Chiu says. “It is a straightforward approach which provides clarity, an ethical framework, and an action plan to help practitioners guide clients and accomplish their financial goals.”

The process starts with gathering relevant data and determining client expectations, followed by monitoring the agreed financial plan and making prudent adjustments when needed.

All these principles are taught in IPFHK-sanctioned courses that lead to a globally recognised qualification as a certified financial planner (CFP). Complementing that, associate financial planner (AFP) certification and a wide range of continuingeducation programmes are also available to keep professionals up to the mark with regulatory changes and other industry requirements.

There are currently more than 4,700 certified CFPs in Hong Kong, while close to 1,800 registered candidates are actively studying for either the CFP or AFP qualification.

“The global financial market is changing and consumer expectations are rising,” Chiu says. “It is essential for the industry to insist on high standards of training backed by a clear code of professional conduct.”