AEPP® Certification can bridge the talent gap in estate planning in Hong Kong

1. Can you tell us more about EPP HK?

Incorporated in Hong Kong in June this year, EPP HK extends the services of EPPL beyond its current geographical scope in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia to service the needs of the dynamic Hong Kong market. EPP HK is an education platform that seeks to equip financial services practitioners in the Hong Kong market through the AEPP® certification programme, which focuses not only on the imparting of knowledge in estate and succession planning, but also on its practical application.

Besides training, EPP HK will also provide trust advisory services to complement the education services. This combination of services makes EPP HK unique as it allows the financial services practitioners who have completed the AEPP® certification programme to tap the trust advisory services that are tailored to their or their clients’ specific needs, enhancing overall professionalism. While the majority shareholder of EPP HK is Estate Planning Practitioners Limited in Singapore, the trust advisory services will be carried out independently. We are also in the process of applying for the Trust and Corporate Services Provider licence in Hong Kong.

2. What potential do you see in starting the AEPP® certification programme in Hong Kong?

The Hong Kong trust industry is facing a talent gap, according to the Hong Kong Trust Industry Report 2021 by KPMG and the HK Trustee Association. Over the past few years, there have been ongoing developments to raise the level of professionalism and competence in the industry. The Trust and Corporate Service Provider licensing regime launched in 2018 was part of efforts to heighten professionalism. In the same year, the Hong Kong Trustee Association embarked on an accreditation programme on the Trust Training Certificate to achieve the same goals and the programme has been well received by industry practitioners who are keen to upgrade the skills of their workforce.

I believe the AEPP® certification programme can help to close the talent gap by contributing to the nurturing of talent and the building of relevant estate planning skills. I see the potential for growth of the AEPP® certification programme in the Hong Kong market, specially when the wealth planning and trust industry has shown resilience amid the challenging environment.

The trust industry in Hong Kong continues to grow, according to the Asia Wealth Management Activities Survey by the Securities and Futures Commission published in July 2021, registering a 17% year-on-year increase as of December 2020, bringing AUM to US$578 billion while the wealth and asset management business grew 21% year-on-year with AUM reaching US$4,505 billion.

Having a presence in the Hong Kong market also allows EPP HK to capture growth opportunities in the Greater Bay Area (GBA), with the opening up of the financial services industry in China, like the recent launch of GBA Wealth Connect. The AEPP® certification programme in Hong Kong could benefit from the potential demand for skills upgrade training and development driven by rising private wealth and growing interest in private trusts in the local market as well as in the North Asia region.

3. What is your biggest challenge given the current situation in Hong Kong?

All forays into new markets have one thing in common – a steep learning curve. I expect EPP HK to face similar challenges including, amongst others, fierce competition and limited funding. The biggest challenge at the moment is the lack of recognition of AEPP® certification in this region. While the AEPP® certification programme has witnessed healthy and steady growth over the past few years in Southeast Asia, it remains relatively unknown to financial services practitioners here. Creating awareness of the AEPP® certification programme and the value it offers will be a crucial step for EPP HK to gain foothold in the new market.

4. What are your plans for the AEPP® certification programme in Hong Kong?

The AEPP® certification programme consists of various modules covering different topics and jurisdictions. For the launch in Hong Kong, a course programme tailored to the Hong Kong market was designed by our trainer who has diverse and extensive experience in the practical field. Going forward, the plan is to roll out the other modules in Hong Kong as well as continuously develop the programme to
ensure its relevance and usefulness to the AEPP® designees and to upgrade the skills of the workforce in the trust industry in Hong Kong.

We also aim to tap the Continuing Education Fund in Hong Kong (similar to IBF-FTS funding) to help grow the business and boost the recognition the AEPP® certification programme. Additionally, we would like to increase the level of interaction in AEPP® communities across different countries and strengthen the network.

5. What advice can you offer to financial services practitioners who want to be or are practicing in Hong Kong?

Fruitful and fulfilling opportunities await you, but opportunities always favour those who are well prepared. So, equip yourself well.

Cindy Wong

Director, Estate Planning Practitioners (HK) Limited (EPP HK)
B.Bus, MBA, AEPP®, STEP Affiliate

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