The high-pressure environment of the AMP University Challenge Finals Day is mitigated for the competitors by their access to coaches and mentors to help steer them through the day’s activities.

Five teams made up of 11 students will take part in the finals at AMP’s Sydney headquarters next Friday. They’ll be put through their paces in a series of activities designed to test technical knowledge, presentation skills and understanding of current industry issues.

It’s an intensive day and it can be intimidating – it’s not unusual for some of the male finalists never to have worn a suit before. But AMP’s head of education, Rod Edge, says the aim of the day is not to crush the finalists under the stress of competing. Rather, it is to “paint a picture, and give some experience, guidance, coaching and challenges to those university students potentially looking at financial advice as their career”.

“They have an experienced AMP coach who can specifically target certain outcomes and objectives that the individual or teams need to get out of the day,” Edge says. “We’re providing an atmosphere where they get the coaching, which is always task- and process-driven, but they also get the opportunity to talk to some significant industry players with many years’ experience, and they can be guided by these mentors in terms of what the future of financial advice and the role of the financial adviser is all about.

Edge says coaches and mentors fulfil two different but complementary roles. He says coaches address specific process and outcome issues, such as managing nerves or addressing concerns around public speaking and presentations.

“They’re there to address specific and purposeful objective, whereas the audience is there to provide some mentorship,” he explains. “Students can talk to a real-life financial adviser and actually understand the war stories, the purpose, fulfilment of being a financial adviser.”
He says all of the coaches assigned to teams on Finals Day are drawn from AMP Horizons Adviser Academy, and are used to dealing with newcomers to the industry and preparing them for entry into it.

A taste of the business

A planner development coach and trainer with Horizons, Eddie Curto, says finalists should be able to reflect on the experience as having given them a taste of some of the elements of being an adviser.

“For some people, it’s an absolute shock, which can be a good thing but also not,” he says. “And also to acknowledge how much they have learned.”

The finalists are given an opportunity after the event to watch videos of themselves in action, Curto says, which the broader industry generally overlooks as an effective way to learn and improve.

Curto plays the Eddie McGuire role of quizmaster in the “Who Wants to be a Financial Planner” quiz, designed to test the finalists’ technical knowledge. Over the years, there have been tweaks to the format that don’t lessen the finalists’ competitive streak but help make the experience less intimidating.

“We don’t show the scores that they get in each round anymore,” Curto says. “We just show their names and ranking. Once upon a time, it would have been, ‘OK, that person has 10 points and the next team has three points’, and [that team] would feel inferior. [We let] them know that no one is going to know their scores, so don’t worry about what you get right or wrong, just enjoy it.”

Curto says the finalists will be encouraged to seek help and guidance throughout the day where they feel they need it.

“We’re used to getting all those newbie questions,” he says. “It’s not like when you start a new job and you’ve been recruited on the basis that you’re supposed to know something about the job and then you feel embarrassed about asking questions. We try not to make it feel like that.”

Confidence game

Curto says many newcomers to the industry, whether they be recent graduates or career-changers, tend to run into issues related to confidence, being either under-confident in their skills and abilities or over-confident in what they believe they know.

“It’s pegging someone back who thinks they’re awesome and helping them realise that maybe they need to listen to some of the advice that’s being offered; but in most cases, people are brilliant and just don’t realise it because they’re so focused on ‘I don’t know everything yet’,” Curto says.

“That’s the biggest issue we find and it’s about reminding people about the context – that the only reason they’re here is because they’re new. Our role is to help people who have never done this before. You’re in the right place. You’re expected to ask questions, and it’s when you’re not asking questions that we do get worried that you think you know it all.”

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