A team from Griffith University has taken home $5000 as the winner of the 2017 AMP University Challenge, emerging victorious after three gruelling tests that traversed technical knowledge, a mock client meeting and a presentation on what new initiatives could be introduced in the financial planning profession to help reduce the growing burden of funding the age pension for an ageing population.

The Griffith Elite Group team (pictured above) of Monica Rayos and Artur Kurnikov took top honours, with Rayos handling the technical quiz and the eight-minute presentation, and Kurnikov conducting the 17-minute client meeting.

AMP’s director of channel strategy and services, David Akers, presented the pair with the winners’ prizes (including $3000 for their university) at a presentation at AMP’s Circular Quay headquarters in Sydney on Friday last week.

The 11 students in the five teams competing in the 2017 Finals Day were selected from more than 700 students who entered this year, a record for the competition.

A panel of judges chaired by professor Mark Brimble, head of finance and financial planning at Griffith University, assessed the teams’ presentations and client meetings. Brimble recused himself from judging duties after a team from Griffith won through to the final.

“This has been the closest competition in the seven years,” Brimble said. “We were about to send out a search party [for the judging panel] they’ve been away so long, and that’s because the scores were so close. And for the first time ever, we believe, the three segments of the day were won by different teams, which shows the strength you all bring to this.”

Brimble said “only a handful of points” ultimately separated the finalists.

La Trobe University’s Kimberley Guild, competing in the challenge solo and coached on the day by AMP manager of business planning capability, Charm Ingram, finished fifth. Brimble described Guild as “probably the hardest working student of the day”. She won first place in the technical quiz, and Brimble said she delivered “an excellent talk on financial literacy [and] the role of advisers and advice practices in supporting Australians”.

Jacob Kaczkowski and Clive Moyo, from TAFE NSW, finished fourth as Team JaCa (below), and were commended for their opening gambit to the client interview.

“ ‘How have you been, and what have you been doing today?’ was one of the best openings and one of the best introductions to a client meeting that, as the judges said, really engaged the clients from the beginning, made them feel comfortable and built rapport,” Brimble said. “That was outstanding. [They gave] an amazing talk on living longer, the consequences of this for Australians and the macroeconomics around the age pension, and [had] a great discussion of technology.”

Tim Veloso, Jacob Robach and Aiden Dela Cruz, from Western Sydney University, competing under the team name Getting Old and Dying (below), took out third place, and were commended for a presentation focusing on why attitudes towards retirement need to change.

Brimble said they tackled the issue from “the perspectives of behavioural issues, preparing for retirement and getting more Australians engaged in their financial future”.

Sequoia Advisory, a team from University of Queensland comprising Angus Kizil, Patrick Egstorf and Sean McBunrie, finished second, after achieving the top-scoring presentation for the day.

It focused on the cost of retirement, Gen X not being prepared for the future, and how the financial services sector must do much more to engage younger individuals and take “a holistic intergenerational approach” to advice.

Rayos and Kurnikov, coached on the day by AMP planner development coach Vanessa Vu, were commended by the judges for what they described as a “Macaulay Culkin moment” in response to discovering their client had become pregnant since their last meeting: “Wow. Yes, I’m surprised too, but very happy for you. Maybe we should have addressed that at the start?”

Brimble said the team also gave “a great presentation picking up on technology, and the app that was proposed was LifeNav, a technological solution the judges warmed to and commented on favourably”.

In addition to exposing the finalists to more of what it’s like to work as a financial planner, the university challenge is designed to introduce them to senior advice professionals and academics and to allow them to explore career opportunities.

Rayos is working in a financial planning firm and will be going full-time as a paraplanner in December.

“I want to build my knowledge there in that role first,” she said. “My end goal is to become an adviser.”

Kurnikov said the experience had convinced him he wants to be a financial planner.

“I don’t have the words, honestly,” he said. “It’s crazy. We’re so fortunate. All the guys put in a great competition, they all pushed hard. I’m speechless.

“We had to prepare quite a bit, but it paid off in the end. I think we are still fortunate, though. I just feel good. And I know I want to be a financial adviser. The road is ahead.”

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