Among their Asian peers, Hong Kong residents are widely known for a keen interest in investment and most matters financial. Financial planners still have incredible potential to swoop in on the territory's employed classes, stresses the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong (IFPHK).

In the first survey of its kind to explore the attitudes and knowledge surrounding financial planning, the IFPHK teamed up with ACNielsen (China) in April and May to determine the personal wealth management habits of Hong Kong residents. Largely using those with a personal monthly income of HK$40,000 (Around $5,100) or more, the organization set out to understand consumers' attitudes and concerns towards financial planning, to measure consumer awareness of IFPHK and the financial planning profession in Hong Kong, and to establish a benchmark for future tracking.

Using a six-point scale, the survey determined that retirement planning is the eminent wealth management concern confronting consumers in Hong Kong, scoring a mean average of 4.1. In particular, the IFPHK determined that planning for retirement was a greater concern for the 31-40-age bracket than those presently aged over 51.

The institute points out that the sizable gap in retirement planning sentiment between the two generations is a result of a knowledge vacuum, with understanding of options in the 31-40 group towering over the 51 and above bracket by a mean score of 0.7.

Going on these pieces of data, the organization suggests that lack of concern and knowledge in the older population is the perfect opportunity for financial planners to address widespread retirement planning ignorance and bolster bottom lines.

"This presents great opportunities to financial planners who can offer detailed advice on retirement planning" says Dr. Louis Cheng, member of the IFPHK Consumer Survey Task Force and of its Executive Committee.

Following retirement planning the second largest priority among Hong Kong consumers in the financial planning spectrum is the insurance planning space. With a mean score of 3.6 out of six, consumer knowledge of insurance products and usage in the territory is regarded as relatively high, which the institute ascribes to positive education by insurance companies.

Also ranking highly as wealth priorities for Hong Kong citizens are short/immediate-term wealth management and comprehensive financial planning, while consumers consider tax and estate planning issues to be the lowest level of importance.

The survey went on to suggest that respondents with a monthly personal income of over HK$40,000 were more likely to seek planning advice using the internet and financial consultants than those in the lowest wage brackets. However, the bank channel emerged as the most popular channel for managing wealth, with 45% of males and 54% of females earning top end incomes suggesting this is their preferred method.

Across all age ranges and salaries, the personal banking space was regarded as the eminent choice in managing personal financial needs, with 70% of respondents turning to these institutions for professional advice. On the other side, a cumulative average of only 5% saw financial planners as the best advising option, which according to the IFPHK was probably influenced by confusion over the role with that of financial consultants. The institute will continue to conduct the survey for the foreseeable time and will use the 2004 version as a benchmark for future findings.