Kaplan Professional's 2020 and 2021 financial planning NSW graduation class (Photo supplied by Kaplan).

Amidst the experience pathway debate dominating the industry right now Kaplan Professional has celebrated the graduations of over 1,800 students with its first in-person graduation series across the country since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At Tuesday night’s event in Sydney, Kaplan chief executive Brian Knight told Professional Planner that while it is important to recognise the loss of advisers it’s essential those following through their with education commitments are recognised as well.

Brian Knight

“These are the people that will encourage other advisers [to study],” he said. “I was shocked at the number that have gone on the journey and in many cases just gone ahead and finished.”

One of the graduates was Benjamin Donald, principal for life insurance advisory business Austbrokers Financial Solutions, who said it’s important to reflect on the “wonderful job” the graduates have done.

“The last two years haven’t been the most pleasant for all of us, particularly in the financial advice industry. I’d say the last five years have been the absolute worst.”

Graduating with a Master of Financial Planning, Donald said his colleagues made a personal choice to further themselves and the industry.

“I watched colleagues go through tough times and it’s wonderful to reflect on the fact that it was essentially a baptism of fire for us. You’ve not only survived but thrived.”

Shadforth private wealth adviser Veronica McAlister said she was “chuffed” to receive her Master of Financial Planning and share her journey.

“It is a big deal and a proud achievement. Many times, it would’ve been easy for me to stop at a Graduate Diploma and meet the education requirements that way but now I don’t feel like an imposter.”

Financial Planning Association chief executive Sarah Abood was in attendance to show her support for the next generation of qualified financial planners.

Abood said these graduates “have been through hell” having to do their qualifications during Covid-19, while many sacrificed family time to commit to studies.

“My heart overflows hearing people yell out ‘go mum’ and ‘that’s my daddy’ [from the audience],” she said. “Oh my god, that was beautiful.”

More than an obligation

Kaplan academic dean James Adonopoulos is passionate about education, but it was a learned appreciation. He didn’t complete his first undergraduate degree until he was in his early thirties and it was advice from his manager at the time that changed his perception of the pursuit of education.