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Setting another benchmark

Published on Friday, 08 Jul 2011
SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner 2010 awardees (from left) Alfred Sit, Alpha Cheng and Agnes Lo.
Photo: May Tse

EDITOR'S NOTE In this first in a series of five reports, we focus on the story of the awards and what’s new this year. 

With the first-round winners in the SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards 2011 just announced, the stage is set for an intense battle for prizes for various categories and the overall crown.

Since their launch in 2005, the awards have become an annual highlight, challenging practitioners to demonstrate their financial knowledge and professional skills in a contest that pits them against the best in the industry.

As it has grown, the event has won particular praise and recognition for its impact in two important areas.

One is the competition's contribution to instilling the principles of good financial planning and raising overall professional standards. The other is in raising public awareness of what it takes to manage one's personal finances more effectively and build a future free of major money worries.

"We believe the awards represent the highest level of recognition for professionals in the sector and set benchmarks for the industry to follow," says Eleanor Wan, CEO of the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK).

Sticking to a proven formula, this year's awards again consist of three rounds. The first, now completed, required contestants to submit a financial proposal based on a case study of an actual client. Limited space made it important to focus on the essentials, a key early test of every submission.

In general, the judges wanted to see that each entrant had gone through the recommended steps for assessing a client's needs and goals, and used critical thinking.

"The planner must rethink and tailor the essentials and decide which to include," Wan says. "We believe the process helps to [reinforce principles] and enhance the quality of submissions."

The second round, which is already under way, entails a detailed written plan, followed by a presentation before a panel of judges. This involves an element of role-play, with the judges expected to act and respond as if clients.

The judging criteria reflect the six recognised steps of financial planning, such as establishing client relationships, gathering relevant data, and analysing this to determine the client's financial status and realistic goals. They must also present, implement and monitor the progress of a financial plan, once agreed.

Judges are also looking for that extra something that separates the best from the rest. It could relate to risk analysis, anticipating client needs, or offering practical suggestions to reinvest assets and achieve better long-term returns.

To make it through to the final round in September, contestants must show a full range of financial planning attributes, going beyond an in-depth understanding of investment products and what matters most for clients whose income, expenditure and financial priorities will change as they go through life. It also requires excellent presentation skills, poise under pressure, and a knack for explaining complex ideas in layman's terms.

"In the oral presentation, planners must demonstrate to the judges that they can communicate the important concepts well and articulate financial planning knowledge appropriate to different situations," Wan says.

She adds that the winner will have undergone close scrutiny in three rounds that stretch over seven months. And along the way, they will have shown their mettle in face of a stringent judging process designed and administered by both industry experts and academics. 

"These are the only awards in Hong Kong that provide a level-playing field for contestants from the industry's three major sectors - banking, insurance and independent financial advisory," says Wan. "This is a sign of strong support from within the broader financial planning community and illustrates the importance of the competition to the continued growth of the industry." 

First round winners

Cheung Ming-fai, Tsang Wai-han

Chan Foo-shing, Chan Kin-pong, Chan Kam-sheung, Gordon Chan Tak-chi, Cheung Yuk-chun, Ching Wing-shan, Chui Ka-wai, Fung Kwan-leung, Ho Yiu-lun, Kwan Ho, Lam King-cheung, Lau Shui-hing, Lau Sui-fun, Lau Wing-sze, Lee Pui-kwan, Leung Wai-kit, Leung Yiu-wah, Liu Ying-chi, Lo Wai-hang, Ma Ka-chun, Ng Ka-cheung, Ng Kam-ying, Ng Pui-yu, Ng Wing-hung, Siu Lai-ping, Soong Chun-kuo, Sun Siu-ling, To Wing-sheung, Wong Shun-cheong, Wong Wing-sze, Wong Yuk-nam, Young Hon-man, Yu Man-ying

Independent Financial Advisory
Au Yeung Shuk-kwan, Chan Chung-yin, Cheng Yee-ming, Cheuk Kam-fai, Chow Wing-ho, Chung Hoi-ying, Chung Wai-shan, Nathan de Lyster, Fu Wai-chung, Fung Tsz-yan, Fung Wing-ho, Kwan Wun-yu, Lai Wai-ho, Crystal Lam Cheuk-chi, Lam Yu-mei, Lau Sau-yee, Ryan Lawson, Leung Sik-kwan, Lo Chun-pong, Lo Ka-hei, Man Choi-yan, Ng Ka-yu, Ng Ming-sing, Ng Tsun-hing, Ng Wai-lung, Ng Yuen-ki, Ngai Hiu-wa, Tang Ho-man, Tang Yaw-fay, Yeung Hoi-ling, Yiu Wai-yee, Yun Shing-wong

What's next

August 27 The 2nd round winners, the 2010 grand champion PLUS a special feature on Manulife
September 17 A report on the finalists’ presentations and the latest from Convoy
October 8 The judges, ‘My Favourite Financial Planner’ online voting results PLUS updates from Financial Express
October 15 Reports on the 2011 individual and industry winners

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