Be Part of the Educational Process - in LAS VEGAS!
By Ed Morrow
Intl. Assoc. of Registered Financial Consultants
On 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 in May.
This 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.
As 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 Process
At the initial submission, the students must adhere to simple guidelines when submitting their sample plan.
- Was the plan received at the IARFC office on time?
- Was the plan properly packaged (3 ring binder as requested)?
- Did a CD-ROM containing supplemental reports accompany the printed plan?
Having 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 recommendations
- 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 judges.
For the 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.
Each 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 financial plan. Criteria for this final stage:
- 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 capacity?
- 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 circumstances warrant?
Following 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 Process
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 judge. What’s 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.
Date (EST): April 30, 2014 12:00 AM - May 1, 2014 12:00 AM
Location: New York, New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino