In 2004, the Securities Commission of Malaysia (SC) introduced the precursor to Licensed Financial Planner status following amendments to the Securities Industry Act (SIA) 1983, which required a person to be licensed before he can call himself a financial planner. This move served not only to protect consumer interests, but also fostered a greater degree of professionalism in the field.

In Malaysia, practicing Financial Planners must first pass examinations administered by the Financial Planning Association of Malaysia (FPAM) or Malaysian Financial Planning Council (MFPC).

Financial planners play a key role in helping individuals manage their financial affairs and provide for their future. Financial planning is not the sole preserve of high net worth individuals, but is also an issue for middle income individuals, who represent an underserved market and potential opportunity for the financial planning community.

In this regard, financial planning associations must encourage their members to hold themselves to the highest ethical standards of conduct. Today, the profession still has room to grow and is poised for a greater leap with the support of the regulators, licensed financial planners and Malaysians as a whole.

  • Financial Planning Association Malaysia (FPAM)

“When financial planning started in Malaysia in the early 1990s, it was deemed as a cross-sell opportunity more than anything else. Being an unregulated industry, anyone could call themselves financial planners and start pushing products,” informs Linnet Lee, CEO of FPAM.

FPAM was established in 1999 with the aim of enhancing the competency and professionalism of financial planners through the Certified Financial Planners (CFP) certification in Malaysia, and to educate the public on the importance of financial planning.

The association currently administers the CFP certification and the Islamic Financial Planner (IFP) qualification programmes. Both qualifications are recognised by the Securities Commission (SC) and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) for licensing purposes.

The not-for profit organisation, with the backing of Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc (CFP Board), is the sole licensing authority for the CFP mark in Malaysia. CFP Board is an international certifying and standards-setting organisation that administers the CFP certification programme and oversees more than 70,000 professionals worldwide, Lee shares.

In essence, FPAM aims to establish a professional self-regulatory organisation to benefit the public by fostering professional standards in financial planning.

Recently, it initiated, a device-friendly website that provides invaluable personal finance tips and tools to Malaysians – from keeping track of their cash flow and financial goals that suit their lifestyle needs, to accessing its members who are licensed financial planners (LFPs) for professional opinions.

The LFPs are featured alongside their photos, experience/background, firms that they represent, their areas of expertise, license numbers and most importantly, their range of fees.

“Besides being able to access LFPs for professional opinions, provides independent bite-sized financial lessons from reliable sources, notably government-linked agencies. The lessons are aimed at giving the public a good foundation in personal finances, as well as enhancing understanding of the financial planning process so that they can better work with financial planners,” enthuses Lee.

  • Malaysian Financial Planning Council (MFPC)

Registered in 2004 under the Societies Act 1996, MFPC, which runs the Registered Financial Planner (RFP) Programme, is an independent body set up with the noble objective of promoting nationwide development and enhancement of the financial planning profession.

MFPC’s RFP designation was approved by BNM as the prerequisite qualification to apply for the Financial Adviser’s License and Financial Adviser’s Representative License.

The RFP designation was also approved by SC as one of the qualifications to apply for the Investment Advisers’ License under the SIA 1983, and for the application of the Capital Markets Services License (CMSL) with the implementation of the Capital Markets and Services Act 2007. The Federation of Investment Managers Malaysia (FiMM), which regulates PRS consultants, has granted RFP designees automatic recognition as PRS consultants since 2012.

MPFC aspires to promote financial planning literacy in line with Malaysia’s developed nation-cum-high-income nation agenda. “In this regard, it will work closely with financial bodies such as the EPF, BNM, cooperatives and PNB to propagate the necessary awareness and education which is crucial to produce more qualified financial planners,” says MFPC Vice-President (External Relations & Publicity) Phang Kar Yew.

“The end game is to professionalise them with the right qualification and training, thus transforming what we deem as raw human resources to becoming qualified talents that will enable a healthy financial advisory ecosystem to thrive,” he adds.

  • Association of Financial Advisers (AFA)

Representing all licensed financial advisers and corporate unit trust adviser (CUTA) firms, AFA was approved by the Registrar of Societies in 2012 with the support of BNM and the SC.

AFA’s endorsement by regulators is intended to benchmark the industry’s best practice models as well as to spearhead changes in the Malaysian financial landscape, in line with BNM’s Financial Sector Blueprintand the SC’s Capital Market Master Plan.

Backed by 31 approved financial advisory firms, AFA’s primary objective is to register all individual advisers so as to enable them to play a more effective role towards enhancing cohesion in the financial advisory industry in Malaysia, according to its President, Derick Tan.

One way of doing so is to develop a grooming programme for existing licensed members to further improve their engagement and level of service to their clients, Tan added.

 “A good example is our inaugural CEO and Management Workshop, held on March 30 this year, where we gathered all CEO and top management teams among our members in a knowledge sharing session aimed at growing and operating their business professionally,” he points out.

“The workshop was able to successfully engage all top management teams among AFA member firms to interact and exchange operating experiences.”

Another major annual event is the AFA Annual Conference, which saw its seventh iteration this year. The annual conference boasts a lineup of speakers and practitioners who can highlight both the latest industry developments as well as new knowledge within the financial advisory sphere.

According to Tan, AFA plans to organise more workshops to groom members on ways and means to address current challenges within the financial advisory industry as well as to facilitate recruitment drives for new members.