Things have certainly changed for Alfred Sit Wai-hong since he claimed the title of overall champion at last year's SCMP/ IFPHK Financial Planner Awards.
For a start, within a couple of months of his victory, he was promoted to senior wealth management manager by his employer, HSBC. As part of that move, he assumed responsibility for a 13-person team dealing with clients at two large branches. And as a direct result of the higher profile the award brought, finding new clients has become a whole lot easier - in fact, they now come to him.
"I am enjoying the changes and the new challenges," says Sit, who also came top in the industry category for bankers at last year's awards. "There is more management work now, but I like having the chance to build a successful team and being able to pass on my financial planning skills to other professionals."
When he first decided to enter the competition, Sit had three main objectives. One was to improve his fact-finding and financial analysis skills when assessing client needs. The second was to demonstrate his professional credentials to clients and show a long-term commitment to the industry.
And the third was to expand his personal network, initially by meeting fellow contestants from the insurance and the independent financial advisory sectors.
Having battled through three tough rounds of competition, presenting case studies, and answering questions from panels of expert judges, he feels all those goals were achieved.
"I am more confident now about expressing my opinions and my public speaking skills have definitely improved," Sit says. "People now `believe' that I'm a qualified financial planner and want to hear what I have to say. With clients introducing their family and friends, I must have received more than 100 referrals in the past few months and have had to delegate some to my team."
Sit's most pressing tasks now are to expand his team to around 20 people and to acquire the experience and all-round skills so that one day, he can move into branch management.
In offering general advice to colleagues taking part in this year's awards, he emphasises good framework for every financial plan and having clear reasons to support each recommendation.
"Sometimes it is difficult to summarise sophisticated concepts in plain language," Sit says. "To succeed in the competition, though, you must do a very professional analysis, but present it in a 'simple' way which the whole audience can understand."