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For the second consecutive year, Deakin students take star billing in Sydney.

A team of Deakin financial planning students has blitzed a national field of finalists in the 2016 AMP University Challenge to take out first place and a prize of $5000.

Megan Cull, Daniel Petrov and Mitchell Bogdanov – all undergraduate commerce students at Deakin’s Geelong Waterfront Campus – toppled teams from the University of Sydney, Monash University and the University of Wollongong in a tightly-contested challenge that attracted a record-breaking number of entrants.

Now in its sixth year, the highly-competitive and prestigious event is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their problem-solving and financial planning prowess while being judged by a panel of industry and academic experts.

With fourth place going to Deakin’s team of postgraduate students, this year’s results are a dazzling follow-up from last year’s challenge where Deakin took out first and second places. 

Dr Adrian Raftery, Deakin Business School’s (DBS) Financial Planning Course Director, says it’s an outstanding achievement.

‘With almost 700 students from across the country it’s brilliant effort to make the final of such a prestigious competition but to take it out again was outstanding – amazing for our students’ future careers and their confidence.  We are very proud of Megan, Daniel and Mitchell and also proud of our masters’ students who came fourth. This team had two international students (from the Ukraine and China) who didn’t speak a word of English just two years ago so it was an incredible effort!’

In a series of tasks and tests, 571 teams of up to three students each were narrowed down to five finalists who took part in a full-day final at AMP’s Sydney headquarters on Friday 28 October.

Participating in a range of challenges and activities, the finalists showed off their skills in a quiz show-styled knowledge test, role-played a client meeting, presented a paper on future-based projections and took part in professional development and training sessions with AMP-appointed coaches.

Team members Megan Cull and Daniel Petrov both agree that making the finals not has only highlighted the importance of communication skills but also sharpened their career goals.

‘For me, the highlight was getting the opportunity to present the Statement of Advice,’ says Megan. ‘Although it was quite nerve-wracking, it was a great experience and I loved being part of it. The role play gave me experience to what a job in financial planning would really be like, and it was great to get feedback from all of the judges to see which areas I need to focus on in the future.’ 

She says the experience gave her genuine insight into the real-world of financial planning.

‘My studies have equipped me well with the theory but I found the AMP University Challenged really showed me how important presentation and communication is. Throughout the day we were also able to sit down with the AMP recruitment team, which was really helpful as it gave me an insight into what a job at AMP would look like and how to go about getting there. I think this is definitely something I will be looking into as financial planning is a career I’d like to pursue.’

Daniel Petrov says the win was an ‘incredible achievement’ and he’s extremely grateful for the opportunity to compete in such a highly-recognised competition.

This experience has only strengthened my goal of becoming a financial planner… a big credit to AMP for putting on such a brilliant day. It was an incredible experience and I will forever be grateful for Deakin and AMP for allowing me to be a part of something so special and to have learnt some very valuable life lessons throughout the experience.’

The initial selection process, which involved students drafting a ‘Statement of Advice’ for a fictitious couple, gave them an excellent exercise in authenticity says Dr Raftery.

‘We had the students prepare this as part of their assessment in the capstone unit of their financial planning degrees. From there they had about two weeks’ notice that they were selected for the final in Sydney.  With trimester-end exams occurring at the same time, they were obviously limited with their preparations but we were able to get them to practise their presentations to experienced financial advisers both in Geelong and Burwood,’ he explains.

Dr Raftery says Deakin’s successive, top-rating performance at the prestigious event further cements the university’s reputation as a leader in financial planning education.

‘To come back to Sydney with two new teams and to defend our title speaks volumes for the programs that we have in place.  One of the core components in the DBS’s mission is graduate employability and having our courses externally-validated with success in competitions like the AMP University Challenge augurs well for all of our financial planning graduates.’ 

AMP Academy and Education Manager Louise Trevaskis says that in a sign that more university students are considering a financial planning career, registrations for the AMP University Challenge have continued to increase.

‘We know financial planning is an attractive career choice for people looking for challenging work, the opportunity to run their own business, and the reward of helping people achieve their goals and aspirations. The calibre of students who attend the finals day continues to impress the judges and is an indication of the bright future of financial planning.’

With requirements for financial advisers in Australia to hold a financial planning-related degree from 2019, Dr Raftery says industry employers are showing keen interest in Deakin students.

‘There’s now a multitude of internship and scholarship offers from employers and that can only be a good thing for our students,’ he says.

Further to first-place cash prize of $5000, Deakin’s winning team received registration to attend the 2016 FPA Professionals Congress and Deakin University received a $3000 grant from AMP to put toward financial planning education initiatives.