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Raising the bar, crossing the border

Catering to the growing wealth management needs of Hong Kong's well-heeled also includes extending the boundaries of wealth management excellence.

According to Rosetta Fong, chief executive officer at Convoy Financial Services, financial advisers looking to provide competent and ethical financial planning services need more than just academic qualifications.

"While business qualifications are fundamental requirements, they are only are part of what makes a good financial planner," she says.

"The character and supporting skills of the planner are equally important," Fong adds. "For example, can the planner put himself in the client's shoes? Is he willing to go that extra distance for the client? And does he have the commitment to produce results based on the client's objectives and aspirations?"

In addition to Convoy's ongoing professional training programmes, Fong says that each new recruit is assigned a mentor. An experienced, dedicated one-on-one guide, she adds, is able to help fresh employees better acclimatise to Convoy's established processes, which include stringent ethical conduct.

Among the most sought-after candidates attributes that Convoy prefers, Fong lists strong communication skills and a financial services background.

"We tend to prefer candidates with a couple of years' experience somewhere in the finance industry, and we see it as a bonus if they have a Certified Financial Planner's (CFP) qualification," she says.

Unlike financial planners working in insurance companies and banks, the independent financial advisers (IFAs) that Convoy employs are able to offer a much broader range of financial products to their clients, explains Fong.

"IFAs can implement the true meaning of financial planning, rather than just serving as transaction processors. This, I believe, is one of the reasons we are able to attract talented people to our company."

To advance client protection and improve financial planning professionalism in the city, the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK) recently added an Associate Financial Planner (AFP) certification as a progressive pathway to the CFP certification.

To be eligible for AFP certification, candidates are required to complete a 120-hour education programme, as well as pass a three-hour examination.

Candidates must also possess one year of full-time qualified work experience, and agree to abide by a strict code of professional conduct that sets out an AFP certificant's ethical responsibilities to the public, clients and employers.

The IFPHK strongly believes that the focus on education, examination, experience and ethics - the so-called 4E standards - highlight the commitment of the industry to competent and ethical financial planning services.

Recognising Hong Kong's close ties to the mainland, the IFPHK is also committed to grooming financial talent who wish to serve clients on a regional basis. As such, the CFP certification cross-border examination has recently been revised. Introduced last December, the paper focuses on Hong Kong finance regulations, among other topics.