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The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers unveils the Certified Banker qualification, the new benchmark for banking professionals

As the financial industry gets more complex and new regulations change the way professionals in the industry operate, bankers need to stay up to date with developments and embrace continuous learning – both in terms of technical understanding and ethical requirements.

For The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB), the challenge is to ensure that the qualification programmes it offers cater to the demands of modern banks and financial professionals, balancing requirements for the new financial landscape with quality-tested education that covers all the bases.

September’s HKIB Annual Banking Conference offered the first significant glimpse of the new qualification that aims to meet these requirements: the Certified Banker, or CB, qualification, which will become the new common benchmark for professional standards in the Hong Kong banking industry. This new qualification programme will align itself to the Enhanced Competency Framework (ECF) being developed by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) for important areas and functions of the banking and financial services industry, with new applications to study for the CB being taken from January 2017.

“We are delighted to be launching the Certified Banker qualification next year,” said Carrie Leung, chief executive officer of HKIB. “This new common qualification benchmark for practitioners is a momentous shift that will bring benefits to individuals and firms. It is a big responsibility for HKIB to be leading this and we are all very much looking forward to the first course next year.”

The modular course will incorporate general and specialised topics, with the syllabus rewarding time spent in mastering both practical and theoretical know-how. The qualification will be recognised industry-wide.

The awards and designations linked to the CB are in three main stages. Completion of the Advanced Diploma for Certified Banker with one year of banking or finance-related working experience awards the CB (Stage I) designation. Completion of the Professional Diploma for Certified Banker with two years of banking or finance-related working experience awards the CB (Stage II) designation. Finally, completion of the Postgraduate Diploma for Certified Banker, together with three years of banking or finance-related working experience, is recognised with the Certified Banker designation.

The three-level CB builds upon the Associate of The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (AHKIB) qualification currently offered by HKIB. The AHKIB is accredited as a Qualifications Framework Level 6 award, the equivalent of a master’s degree, and is recognised internationally. When the CB replaces the AHKIB next year, it will be the only master’s-level accreditation for banking qualification in Hong Kong.


Canvassing opinion

Using a survey conducted by the HKIB between April and June 2016 as a reference, Leung explained that the finance industry has identified a strong need for a set of competency standards that align banking professionals with industry success in a dynamic environment. The new CB qualification is therefore designed to benefit employees, banks and the industry as a whole.

The survey, Leung added, revealed a number of key things about the role of training in the banking sector. Some 88 per cent of respondents recognised the need for training and its role in strengthening market trust in the banking industry. Meanwhile, 77 per cent agreed a common qualification benchmark would raise the professional status of banking practitioners.

Among respondents from bank and non-bank financial institutions, 82 per cent expected the sector’s demand for training to grow, and 72 per cent envisaged external training providers playing a bigger role.

The new CB qualification was also endorsed by HKMA’s chief executive Norman Chan who, in his address to the conference, said its curriculum “encompasses programmes under HKMA’s ECF and combines the up-to-date industry knowledge, practical learning and professional competencies that are relevant to the banking environment.”

Chan added that prevailing conditions in the banking and financial services industry underlined the importance of further training. “As a result of the rising complexity of the financial industry, advances in technology and rapid change in the regulatory landscape, it is not possible for a banker to claim ‘I know it all’. It is only through continuous training and updating that a practitioner would be able to keep abreast of the latest developments in terms of technical knowledge and understanding of conduct and ethics requirements.”

For banking staff, Leung said, there is now a clear pathway for career development and the opportunity for increased career mobility. For their managers and banks, there is the promise of streamlined recruitment and an up-to-date focus on regulatory expectations and requirements. For the broader industry, the transparency of the qualification should assist in attracting talent and, in turn, building out its human resources capacity.

Patrick Fung, chairman of OCBC Wing Hang Bank and of HKIB’s executive committee, pointed out that raising professional standards is an important mission, given the pressing issue of banking talent availability in Hong Kong.

“The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers has a key role to play here in terms of maintaining the levels of professionalism to ensure that banking and financial institutions in Hong Kong can continue to compete on the international stage.”


This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Bettering banking benchmarks.