Team of FHSU financial planning students returns from American Express competition as national champions

Allen also expressed thanks for the opportunity to compete in the American Express event. "I'd like to thank the faculty and staff at FHSU," he said. "They have given our financial planning program all the support and knowledge that anyone can hope for. Thank you, also, to our fellow students. You have pushed us 5/1/01 ks special

HAYS, KS -- One short weekend in Minneapolis has permanently made a mark on Fort Hays State University's financial planning program and seniors Blake Allen, Tribune, Damon Maughan, Hays, and Jeff Schneider, Olmitz.

Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, announced during a news conference this morning that the three students took first place in the Second Annual American Express Planning Invitational at the American Express Financial Advisors Headquarters in Minneapolis. First prize is $10,000 in scholarship money for the financial planning program.

This was the second year of the event, and the first time Fort Hays State had competed. Another Kansas Board of Regents school -- Kansas State University -- won last year.

Dr. Tom Johansen, associate professor of economics and finance, explained during the news conference how Fort Hays State got involved. He saw a presentation by American Express in August 2000 during the Certified Financial Planners Board of Standards Program Directors Conference in Denver and told his students about the competitive event when he returned. "Our students saw that K-State had won and they knew they could do as well as K-State," he said.

There were three phases to the competition: a written case, an oral presentation and a quiz show. American Express first sent out a case early this year to be completed in approximately a month. The students prepared a written financial plan that was subsequently judged by American Express executives. The top six schools were selected to compete in the finals. Those six schools were FHSU, Kansas State University, Cal-State Fullerton, Minnesota State University at Mankato, Western Carolina State University, and the University of North Texas.

In Minnesota, the teams were given a variation of the original case profile they created. They then were allowed three hours to prepare an oral presentation for a panel of industry experts. The final phase of the competition was the "How Do You Know?" Challenge, a game designed to test the students' knowledge of basic financial planning terms and concepts.

FHSU won the national championship by placing first in the written case, first in the oral presentation and second in the quiz show.

Hammond said that besides the grand prize of $10,000 in scholarship money for FHSU, the students each collected $800 for themselves -- $100 in spending money that went to all the students who competed, plus an additional $350 for having the winning written case and another $350 for the best oral presentation. American Express also paid all the expenses for the trip to Minneapolis and has given Fort Hays State $1,000 to cover part of the costs of sending the three students to the Financial Planning Association's international conference later this year at San Diego, where their registration fees also will be waived.

FHSU and KSU are the only institutions in Kansas to offer a degree in financial planning. The degree which Allen, Maughan and Schneider, along with all other financial planning students, receive is a bachelor of business administration with a major in finance and an emphasis in financial planning. The students also have an option of receiving an additional degree in accounting, for which all three of these students are on track.

Dr. Rory Terry, assistant professor of economics and finance, accompanied the team to Minneapolis, and he said he was in awe of his students' composure as they gave their oral presentation in an enormous hall in front of television cameras.

"Everyone I talked to from American Express had the impression that we were the underdog, and we felt that way, too," Terry admitted. "We were the only small school competing that had not been there before."

Of course, it didn't turn out that way. "I'm very proud of the team we put together. They showed great initiative and leadership," he continued. "Actually, they come from an outstanding class this year. We could have put together two or three good teams."
Terry and Johansen said that the FHSU team definitely opened some eyes with their winning performance. "Even though our team came from a small school in western Kansas, they're getting one of the finest educations in the nation," Terry said.

"We certainly appreciate American Express for providing the competition and for giving us this opportunity," he added.

Each of the three national champions also spoke during the news conference.

"To begin with, we would like to thank American Express for hosting this event and giving us the opportunity to compete in such a great program," Schneider said. "We are extremely honored and excited to receive such a prestigious award. Being able to compete at the national level with top quality programs and coming away as national champions proves that we have a great financial planning program here at Fort Hays State University. We have always believed we had a great program, but this proves it beyond a doubt."
to excel and we hope that we have made you proud."

Maughan said it was an invaluable learning experience. "We had the opportunity to apply the classroom theory that we have been learning to a real world case," he said. "We learned a great deal about ourselves and our teammates and the education we have been imparted with. We also learned a lot about other school's programs, and our relative abilities, not to mention what it is like to perform under a microscope."

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