The winners of this year’s AMP University Challenge, Monica Rayos and Artur Kurnikov, attended the 2017 FPA Professionals Congress for an opportunity to network with experienced practitioners and gain deeper insight into financial planning as an industry and a career.

The Griffith University students, who competed in the challenge as Griffith Elite Group, won complementary attendance at the congress and student membership in the FPA as part of their prize package, which also included $5000 in cash (plus a $3000 grant to their university), attendance at an AMP professional development day in their home state, attendance at the 2018 AMP Summit in Sydney, a copy of the book The Trusted Adviser, and a subscription to Professional Planner.

During the congress, degree-qualified students entering the industry were likened to runners at the start of a marathon race, with the whole course laid out in front of them and no obstacles – unlike existing advisers who do not already hold an approved degree and who will be required to attain a degree or degree-equivalent qualification to remain in practice after January 1, 2024.

Kurnikov says the FPA congress experience cemented for him the view that financial planning is the career he wants to pursue, but it also demonstrated that while a particular pathway may have been appropriate in the past, the changing nature of the industry and the increasing role of technology means “there’s no right way of doing something”.

“Especially now, with all the technological change, you hear opinions form people who have done very well for themselves but they’ve had a traditional approach,” Kurnikov says. “It still seems the right way to go. I’ve got some questions to ask my boss. I heard a lot of opinions from other people, and I’ve found a way I can ask my boss to sit in on client meetings and progress my career further.”

Rayos says the congress demonstrated how willing and keen the industry is to welcome and mentor newcomers.

“Planners are genuinely nice people,” she says. “You can rock up to someone you don’t know, and have a great conversation with them, and they’re really keen to mentor you and take you on. They were really nice.”

Since winning the university challenge, Kurnikov has moved into a paraplanning role, while Rayos is working in a client service role but plans to move into paraplanning and, also like Kurnikov, wants to use it as a stepping-stone to becoming an adviser.

“Talking to different people in the industry just confirmed that,” Rayos says.

While the pair mostly attended sessions at the congress from the “inspire” stream – “Get motivated and nurture your mind and body”, the congress program explains – Kurnikov says that if he’d been in his current role when selecting sessions to register for he “might look more into the itinerary and choose something more specific to paraplanning”.

“But I wanted to get inspired and each session gave me something new, for self-improvement purposes, for my emotional intelligence and connecting with people,” he says.

Rayos says a highlight of the congress was the opening Women in Wealth breakfast, which featured Katerina Kimmorley, co-founder of Pollinate Energy.

“The speaker built her own nonprofit organisation, helping people in India have solar-powered lamps,” Rayos says. “That was really inspiring, coming from a woman.”

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