October 31, the National Financial Plan Competition met its deadline for
receiving applicants. The great news is
that the number of participants for the 2014 event has tripled from last year. There are more universities, faculty members
and students involved ‒ and a trip to Las Vegas awaits the teams of finalists
year’s competition emphasizes education.
It is not enough for the students to crunch numbers and recommend
solutions for the given narrative, they have to incorporate a “human element”
into their plan presentation. The
process is structured so that at every level, the students have learning
opportunities. What is very exciting is
that some faculty members are using the Plan Competition as part of their
course curriculum thus giving their students the real world task of developing strategies
and recommendations for their potential clients.
education is the key, judge’s comments and critiques are noted through every
step of the process. Students receive valuable,
constructive feedback to prepare them as they advance.
Criteria for judging is clearly explained upfront
for all levels of involvement.
The Four Step Judging
initial submission, the students must adhere to simple guidelines when
submitting their sample plan.
- Was the plan received at the IARFC office on
- Was the plan properly packaged (3 ring binder as
- Did a CD-ROM containing supplemental reports
accompany the printed plan?
detailed directions will either pass them to the next level or weed out those
who could not fulfill even minimal requirements.
met the above initial criteria, the second judging phase focuses on numbers and
solutions. Here the plan is reviewed on
an analytical level – narrowing the field down to six semi-finalists. Judging is based on:
- Correct entry of the case data and the “soft
information” on the family
- Understanding of the problems, including any
incomplete data from the client
- Recommendations made (the logic, priority,
suitability and timing)
- Physical construction and design of the written plan
- Supplemental text and illustration of problems or
six semi-finalists then move on to the third phase ‒ a web conference where
they present their sample plan to a panel of judges. This visual presentation takes place on March
6th to the IARFC Board Members the day before the annual board
meeting. At this point, the criteria is
geared more to the “professional aspects” of the presentations. Judges focus on :
- Professional speech, dress and mannerisms
- Reference to plan features and analysis
- Clarity of explanations
- Creativity and suitability shown in recommendations
- Effectiveness of working as a team
- Ability to handle surprise questions from the
results of this panel of experienced professionals ‒ 3 finalist teams head to
Las Vegas for an in-person presentation during a two-day event. Finalists attend the IARFC “Impact Branding”
workshop the day before the judging where topics of discussion teach the
students how to stand out or “brand” themselves as they start their financial
careers. Later that evening a reception allows
the students to network with seasoned professionals.
final stage of the process, the IARFC has invited financial professionals from
all over the U.S. to take part in the judging.
Upon registration, attendees receive a copy of the case narrative for
prep work. In Vegas, they are given a
ballot and asked to rate each team.
team has the opportunity to WOW the audience with their creativity and
poise. Now the criteria combines facts and figures AND
professionalism. Ultimately, the judges are
asked to think as a client and pick whom they would engage to implement their
Criteria for this final stage:
At the End of the Day
- How well did the team understand the client’s
problems and shortcomings?
- How well did the team’s recommended Financial
Services and Products provide an appropriate solution within the client’s
- How well did the team present themselves in a
professional manner appropriate to the clientele they are hoping to
attract (dress, mannerisms, speech)?
- How well did the team members work together?
- Was the presentation divided among all
team members or was there a dominant person? Did you feel “over-sold”?
- If thinking as a client, how comfortable would you
feel engaging the team to implement their financial plan and modify it as
all the presentations and a guest speaker at the end of the day, the winning
team is announced. For the first place
team, the publicity (media releases, interviews in the Register, postings on Social Media) is an impressive addition to
their resume when starting their career and interviewing for employment. For the rest of the students, going through
the process becomes a practical tool and a positive experience for writing
plans and presenting to clients.
Everyone comes out with some practical knowledge.
Your Part in the
experience and knowledge of successful IARFC professionals is of most
importance to the conclusion and selection of the best plan. The IARFC needs you to be there and be a
in it for you? An opportunity to share
your wisdom, network with young people who will be the future of the industry
and give back to your profession.