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Planning well ahead

University students aiming for a career in the financial-services sector have one sure way of impressing potential employers. Success in the university category of the SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards shows they have already mastered key aspects of both theory and practice, and have the poise, self-confidence and business acumen to smoothly transition into the professional world.

"The awards give students a platform to apply what they have learned in school to real-life scenarios,” said Mark Richmond, vice-president for agency operations at Manulife (International) and a long-time supporter of the awards.

Team of three or four, all full-time undergraduates from the same tertiary institution, can enter the competition jointly run by the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK). In round one, they are asked to analyse a case study and come up with a detailed written financial plan offering solutions, reasons and suitable recommendations. The teams who make round two present their plan before a panel of expert judges.

“Presentation and communication skills are a big part of the competition. It is a chance for students to demonstrate their all-round talents and appreciate how fundamental knowledge is put to work in practical situations,” Richmond said.

To ensure teams proceeded along the right track, Manulife organised a number of workshops before the competition started. Much of the focus was on how to write an effective financial plan. Past winners of the competition were also invited to share their experiences during the workshops and pass on tips to this year’s participants.

To offer further guidance, the company also assigned mentors to each team, each of them an established financial-planning professional with a strong sales record.

“Many of the contestants have chosen financial planning or related subjects as their major at university. But team mentors can help with a different kind of advice, highlighting what happens in the real world and reminding that the client’s needs and expectations are the key consideration,” Richmond said.

Richmond confirms that having a university category in the awards has achieved three intended objectives. It has raised awareness of financial planning and wealth management as a career option; led to the inclusion of these areas as core subjects in more degree courses; and encouraged young people to think constructively about their own finances by instilling realism and common sense.

He notes that clients in Hong Kong are becoming more sophisticated and more demanding. This means, though, that they realise the importance of high-quality, objective advice. As a result, the adviser must be able to take a  holistic approach which runs from daily cash-flow management to long-term investment targets.

Catering to such needs, Manulife’s graduate training programme is suitably wide-ranging. Lasting 12 months, it consists of four main modules covering product knowledge, soft skills and analyses of clients’ needs.

New joiners have access to a state-of-the-art online platform featuring financial-planning data and business-development models. To facilitate the transition from life on campus, experienced sales managers are on hand to offer personal coaching.

“We have been successful in recruiting and nurturing outstanding graduates – this is one of our main targets,” Richmond said. “We want to help them capture the huge opportunities in the industry.”


First Prize

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Kenny Ng Cheuk-him, Rex Sin Sheung-tsun, Chan Wai-ching and Chu Chi-ho

Second Prize

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Richard Xie Zihe, Gou Sifan, Shen Ao and Yan Lufei

Third Prize

Lingnan University

So Ka-po, Wang Chenli and Wang Ruoxu

Consolation Prizes

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Chan Kong-lung, Wong Nga-sze, Marek Chiu King-hay and Michael Dai Weihang

City University of Hong Kong

Li Man-yi, Huang Manping and Mak Po-man