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Students light up university category

A popular career choice for many students taking finance-related and, indeed, other subjects, is to go into financial planning and wealth management.

The attractions are obvious. The sector is growing, there is comprehensive training that leads to professional qualifications, and there are numerous entry points, with banks, insurance companies and independent financial advisories all looking to hire and develop good graduates.

Students know that success in the university category of the SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards is one of the best ways to catch the eye of a potential employer. Over two tough rounds, the competition requires three- or four-person teams to analyse a complex case and present detailed plans to steer the “client” to long-term financial security.

The format is not just a test of research skills and investment knowledge. It also emphasises the need to understand an individual’s likely goals and priorities, and the importance of clear, non-technical communication, which explains reasons and makes recommendations easy to follow.

As a result, contestants can’t simply rely on academic knowledge. To impress the judges, they must apply that knowledge to a real-life situation, showing the techniques and skills expected of a professional financial planner.

“We look for students who can demonstrate the appropriate professional attitude and offer solutions suitable for the client’s current situation and future goals in life,” said Dennis Lau, chief executive of the IFPHK.

What most pleased him this year was the level of participation from universities across Hong Kong and the obvious time that went into submissions and presentations. He takes this as a sign of the importance students attach to the competition.

More generally, it also reflects the growing focus on financial planning in the academic curriculum, with specialised courses and modules now incorporated in many finance and
business programmes.

“This is one factor which accounts for the high standards we see,” Lau said. “Another is that the competition guidelines are quite tough, so students know they have to prepare well."