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Deakin excels again in AMP University Challenge

Deakin students take out top billing in prestigious national financial planning competition.

Deakin students have again blitzed their way through a national field of finalists in the 2021 AMP University Challenge by tying for the top spot as well as taking out third place.

The tie was a first in the competition’s 11-year history with two final-year, Deakin Bachelor of Commerce (Financial Planning) students, Molly McGinn and Aaron Mynard, sharing top honours with Jamie Lee Fraser from Griffith University.

With the joint winners sharing the combined first and second place prize money, a second team of Deakin students – Sharon Maher, Eric Lui and Brad Hooke – scooped up the successive third place.  

Deakin’s financial planning prowess

Since its commencement in 2011, more than 5,600 students from 30 universities across Australia have participated in this highly competitive event which provides the finalists with the opportunity to demonstrate their problem-solving and financial planning prowess in front of a panel of industry experts.

This year’s results are a dazzling follow-up to Deakin’s winning performances over previous years and Deakin’s Financial Planning Director, Marc Olynyk, says it’s a great achievement.

‘Students have the opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills in a practical and supported setting … AMP is to be commended for organising and supporting this great student initiative and for its commitment to helping foster and promote financial planning to the next generation of professional advisers.’

Overcoming unusual challenges

Hosted online due to the pandemic restrictions, the competition presented added challenges for winning team member Aaron Mynard who was impacted by wild storms which battered Victoria on the morning of the finals.

‘We lost power and internet which isn’t helpful when presenting via MS Teams! I also couldn't leave my house as my son was a primary close contact of a COVID-19 case at his school so there was no option to go anywhere else,’ he says.

Thankfully Molly and Aaron had prepared extensively online and Molly was able to liaise between Aaron and the AMP judges.

‘Ultimately I did the client interview and a speech over the phone with poor reception. I was surprised that the phone didn't drop out and even more surprised when we won! The takeaway for me was that no matter the adversity, you can find a way to succeed. If you prepare well, but remain flexible and persevere you can do it,’ says Aaron.

In preparation for their winning performance, Molly says they were able to communicate effectively and also identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses which helped them delegate for the final assessments. The experience has also cemented her choice to continue in the financial planning profession.

‘I’ve almost completed by commerce degree and have been working in the industry for almost two years. Being selected as a finalist has given me confidence in my own capabilities and I definitely know I'm in the right career,’ she says.

Collaboration, communication, and real-world learning

For the other Deakin team, their finals’ success was a positive and enriching experience.

While fourth year Bachelor of Commerce (Financial Planning)/Bachelor of Laws student, Sharon Maher, says it took her out of her comfort zone, it was an exceptional opportunity to further develop her skills with peer and industry networks.

‘Brad, Eric and I are all cloud-based students and we communicated entirely online. We collaborated on all phases of the challenge and kept in constant contact 'behind the scenes' on the day. It was a huge advantage to have team encouragement in the leadup to each challenge and then debrief afterwards,’ she says.

Eric Lui, a practising pharmacist and recently completed Bachelor of Commerce (Financial Planning student, says a highlight of the competition was the interaction with nation-wide students.

‘It’s great to know that there are so many high-performing financial planning students. A good financial planner helps people to manage their “financial' health”, which is similar to pharmacist who cares about the physical health. Both professions require empathy and professional advice.’

For Brad Hooke, who has also just completed his Bachelor of Commerce (Financial Planning), the support and collaboration of his team members was invaluable.

‘We were constantly sending ideas back and forth through WhatsApp and had a virtual meeting to organise tasks. Honestly, I don't think I could've done as well without them. For me, the highlight was being selected then having time with the leaders and major associates of AMP – this was so beneficial and delivered great industry insights.’

Financial Planning lecturer Gurbinder Gill guided the students through their preparations and says Deakin's holistic learning approach plays a key role in its track record of competition success.

‘While many education providers offer financial planning qualifications, Deakin's unique approach sets it apart as students benefit from the practical experience of the lectures, guest speakers and industry experts. The course content has a heavy emphasis on what to expect in the real world.’

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