In the past 10 years, Hong Kong's financial market has experienced ups and downs, with changes leading to new and different demands on the financial planning industry.
To keep up with market shifts, the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK) has decided to review its Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification, which is considered the gold standard in the industry.
The institute is the sole licensing body authorised by the Financial Planning Standards Board to grant the CFP qualification in Hong Kong and Macau, and its goal is to maintain professionalism and gain consumer confidence.
"The review is to ensure the CFP certification stays current and continues to be relevant to the clients' needs," says Eleanor Wan, CEO of IFPHK. "It has been 10 years since its introduction and there is definitely a need for adjustments.
"In April 2010, we conducted a survey among people with CFP certificates and the results indicated there was a strong demand for raising the knowledge, skills, standards and professionalism of financial planners."
As a result, a steering committee of independent consultants and senior executives from the financial planning industry was formed to review the certification.
"The new CFP certification is relevant and practical to serving the needs of the market and ensures clients benefit from financial planning delivered by professionals qualified to a global standard," says Wan.
To gain the new CFP certification, candidates must first qualify as an associate financial planner (AFP), which involves a 120-hour education programme, a three-hour examination and one year of full-time work experience. They must also sign a code of ethics declaration.
The first AFP certification programme will be held in July this year and the exam will take place on September 10.
The CFP certification requires a 160-hour education programme, a six-hour exam, and three years' work experience. It covers strategies for financial planning and investment portfolios. It also teaches candidates - who must abide by the industry's code of ethics - how to collect information for financial planning advice.
"IFPHK strongly emphasises the `4E' standards - education, examination, experience and ethics," says Wan.
Education courses for both AFP and CFP certification are only available at institutions approved by IFPHK, namely Li Ka Shing Institute of Professional and Continuing Education, the Open University of Hong Kong, the Management and Executive Development Centre at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the University of Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education.