FHSU financial planning team heads back to national competition to reclaim title

Confidence. That is what Fort Hays State University needs to reclaim its financial planning title, according to Dr. Tom Johansen, associate professor of economics and finance.

After placing third last year in the American Express Planning Invitational, the FHSU Financial Planning Team's only goal is to reclaim the title as national champion, which they have received twice after first competing in 2001.

"Our first year in competition, we were the smallest school, and because of that, nobody knew who we were," Johansen said. "Now, within the financial planning community, they know who we are."

This year's team, composed of Jeremy Horn, Almena; Austin Sander, Cimarron; and Jeff Zimmer, Beloit -- all seniors -- are representing FHSU in the final eight remaining teams.

"When we pick a team, we obviously look for the very best students," Johansen said. "I also like to look for competitive individuals who want to win.

"Most of our past students have had an athletic background, so that inner drive is there," he continued. "Students who have taken debate are also a plus and have that drive. Overall, I've just been really lucky."

Thirty-one national colleges were sent a case at the beginning of February that required their three-member student teams to develop financial plans for their cases with absolutely no help. Students worked diligently on the plans until March 3.

The financial plan that the FHSU team submitted scored them a spot in the top eight schools, edging out several larger schools.

"The competition is getting really tough and some major schools did not make it," Johansen said. "Baylor, Purdue, the University of Missouri, Georgia Tech and Texas A&M were some of the major schools that didn't qualify."

Phase 2 began Wednesday, April 21, when the students traveled to the American Express Financial Advisors Headquarters in Minneapolis, MN. During the evening's dinner, American Express gave each team a "twist" that changes the scenario of the case they were initially given. The team has the rest of the night to prepare and change the plan accordingly, before presenting it to a panel of judges on Thursday. The presentation will be similar in style to how they would actually present it to the hypothetical family for whom the plan is being created.

Phase 3 on Friday, will be the "How Do You Know?" Challenge, a contest styled after "Jeopardy" that tests students' knowledge of basic financial planning terms and concepts.

Johansen said these last two parts of the tournament are the most important, and often the downfall of many teams. He said that in order to win the competition, teams are judged in overall performance and consistency, with a large weighting placed on the oral presentation from Thursday.

Besides the recognition, the top team will receive $10,000 in scholarship money for the school and each team member will receive $400.

FHSU will compete against Kansas State University; Minnesota State University-Mankato; Slippery Rock University, PA; Texas Tech University; Virginia Tech; Western Carolina University; and Wright State University, OH.

Nevertheless, Johansen said, the universities they are up against do not intimidate them.

"It used to be intimidating, but it's not anymore," Johansen said. "I think it's probably intimidating for them to go up against us. In fact, a lot of the students who have competed against us all four years have respect for us "

"I have three, hard working, intelligent individuals who are willing to win and they've got the confidence that they will win. I think they can do it," Johansen said. "Confidence is really important."

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