Financial Planning Team shortchanged in competition
05/05/2004

The FHSU Financial Planning Team had high hopes of reclaiming the title of national champions for the third time. However, at the American Express Planning Invitational in Minneapolis, MN, April 21-22. the team was edged out by Virginia Tech, Western Carolina University and Texas Tech University.

"I think it was really close," said Dr. Tom Johansen, associate professor of economics and finance and coordinator of the team. "We were probably just one question away from placing."

Jeremy Horn, Almena; Austin Sander, Cimarron; and Jeff Zimmer, Beloit -- all seniors -- wanted to reclaim the national title for FHSU that two previous teams had won in 2001 and 2002.

"They worked 80 hours a week preparing for this, doing their jobs and going to classes," Johansen said.

To prepare for some of the grueling conditions that the students would face during the actual competition, Johansen said, CTELT loaned the team some bright lights similar to the ones in competition for the students to practice under.

"They felt they were well prepared and I felt that too," Johansen said.

The team was among 31 other schools that were sent a case in February which required the students to develop a financial plan for their case, without any assistance, by March 3.

After the team scored a spot in the top eight schools -- beating out Baylor, Purdue, the University of Missouri, Georgia Tech and Texas A&M -- they traveled to Minneapolis to begin phases 2 and 3 of the competition.

At the American Express headquarters, each team was given a "twist" that changed the scenario of the original case. Teams had the rest of the night to prepare and change their plan accordingly before presenting it to judges the next day.

"The comments from the judges were very strong," Johansen said. "They said that our group didn't seem nervous and that we were knowledagble about out case; it was just mostly positive all over. It was the little things that hurt us, like our PowerPoint slides."

Ending the competition was the "Jeopardy" styled challenge "How Do You Know?," which tested students' knowledge of basic financial planning terms and concepts.

"On the game show, we missed the last question, which made us tie for fourth," Johansen said. "The guys were really down because they knew the answer to that question. It was really close."

"Even though they didn't place, one of the judges was really pleased with the performance and told them that not many people get to present in a Fortune 500 room and meet with corporate executives," Johansen said. "One of the executives from American Express even told the guys that if either of them wanted to move to Boston, they could have a job with him."

Johansen said the team would do the competition again because of the experience they had.

"I think that they put together a first-class competition," he said.

"The competition is getting better every year, though. The teams are getting better and the students are preparing themselves better," Johansen said. "I believe that as the competition continues, there will be more and more schools getting involved in it. This means that we'll have to do the same thing. Our teams and our students will have to get better and better."



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