The real future of financial planning is bright light and fresh air – if we want it

Oct 13, 2014


Professional Planner was a media partner to the AMP University Challenge 2014, and attended the announcement of this year’s prizes announcement, for the five finalists, last Thursday evening.

There were nine kids – I use the term advisedly – in the running for the top prize. Two were competing as individuals and there were three teams of either two or three. Thinking back to days as a (music) student, the idea of putting on a suit would have been a daunting enough idea, let alone fronting up to a roomful of pretty senior people, and being put through a technical quiz, a role-playing scenario and a presentation.

But by all accounts they carried it off with aplomb; and Professional Planner can report first-hand that the single most striking feature about the prize-giving evening was the sheer enthusiasm with which it was conducted. There were no real losers on the night; there were nine winners.

Steve Helmich, AMP’s executive director of financial planning, has been around for a few years and there’s not much that he hasn’t seen over the course of a long career. When he says “I get very excited and really enthused about the future when I see the quality of people here today, and the quality of the people who will be entering the financial planning industry into the future”, you can be sure that something fairly special is happening.

The nine finalists were Matthew Baldi and Stephen McLay (Griffith University); Yun Chin, Min Jum Kim and Mustafa Alansari (Griffith University); Nicola Humphrey (Griffith University); Daniel Smith and James Taylor (La Trobe University); and Harman Singh (Deakin University).

Closer links

It’s not a done deal that all of them will pursue careers in financial planning. On the basis of the conversations Professional Planner had with several of them, it’s still not clear to them where a career in financial planning might start after university. Nor do they know exactly how their professional development might pan out. There is more work to do yet on forging closer links between industry and academia.

Nevertheless, the impact of a national university curriculum, developed by the Financial Planning Education Council (FPEC), is starting to be felt. Associate Professor Mark Brimble from Griffith, has been a driving force behind FPEC, as has AMP Horizons Academy director Amelia Constantinidis (and, frankly, a host of other key academic and industry figures), and both were watching on; and a senior lecturer in financial planning from Deakin, Adrian Raftery, was on hand to support his student. Raftery has revamped Deakin’s financial planning course, and it’s already producing top-quality results, as evidenced by Singh’s selection as a finalist.

It would be a genuine tragedy for financial planning as a profession and for the businesses that could benefit from FPEC’s work if the profession did not unconditionally embrace the council as the recognised academic standard-setting body for the entire profession. Its perceived ties to the Financial Planning Association have to be put to one side. The FPA has already offered to relinquish its involvement if it gives FPEC a better chance of acceptance.


But back to the nine finalists. Their enthusiasm for the job, the attitude of putting the client first, the thrill of problem solving and the allure of making a material difference in people’s lives was palpable. It’s what many financial planners say they got into the business for in the first place; it’s just that it is somehow completely refreshing to hear it coming from a new generation of would-be professionals.

It was a timely reminder of what financial planning can and should be, after months and months of covering mainly the financial planning profession’s perceived shortcomings, the myriad inquiries designed to identify and address those perceptions, and the myopic, pig-headed opposition by too many of the profession’s incumbents to the changes that simply have to be made.

(On the upside to the latter point, there’s some comfort to be taken from the fact that many of those individuals will fairly soon be gone from the industry, replaced by newcomers of the calibre gathered last week at AMP’s headquarters.)

This year more than 400 students registered for the University Challenge. More than 150 of them went on to make finalists’ submissions – and that’s up 30 per cent on the number last year.

If the finalists in this year’s University Challenge are accurate guides, the real future of financial planning is bright light and fresh air.

Original article published in Professional Planner on 13 October 2014

Tags: 101 WaysEducationFinancial Planning

Author: Simon Hoyle


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