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A group of Texas Tech students won first place in the 2020 Financial Planning Association’s Financial Planning Challenge. The team consisted of A.J. Bunn, McKenzie Arrott and Rob Tuckfield.

Michael Guillemette, assistant professor, said he was the coach for the team. His main role was deciding which students would have the opportunity to compete.

Applicants to be a part of the team had to submit their transcript, resume and write about why they wanted to compete in the challenge, Guillemette said.

“This year we have the best team that I think I’ve ever selected,” Guillemette said.

The challenge was to create a financial plan for a hypothetical client, Guillemette said. The team had to develop a written plan, deliver an oral presentation and compete in a quiz bowl.

A.J. Bunn, a senior personal financial planning and economics major from San Diego, said he wanted to compete in the challenge because he wanted to make sure the Tech program was well represented.

“We won this competition in 2018, we got third place in 2019,” Bunn said. “I wanted to get back on the top spot.”

McKenzie Arrott, a senior personal finance and agricultural and applied economics major from Ballinger, said part of the team’s success was because of their unique presentation.

“We were really wanting to make it as interactive with the client as possible and then also just as creative as possible,” Arrott said.

For example, the team had an attorney Zoom in to deliver part of the oral presentation, which is something no other team has done before, Guillemette said.

Rob Tuckfield, a senior personal financial planning major from Austin, said one part of their financial plan he was specifically proud of was the Monte Carlo simulation they developed.

The Monte Carlo simulation is a way to project a variety of future finances, Tuckfield said.

“It’s something used in financial planning, but we weren’t allowed to use financial planning software,” Tuckfield said. “So, I programmed a version of it myself.”

Another part of the team’s success was each person’s open-mindedness, Bunn said. Everyone was willing to listen to alternative ideas.

“We did a great job of going back and forth and batting ideas off,” Arrott said.

One of the challenges the team had to overcome to be successful was not being able to meet in person due to COVID-19, Bunn said.  

The team had to put emphasis on ensuring their plan sounded cohesive, even when there were three people virtually collaborating to complete the challenge, Bunn said.

Competing in the FPA’s challenge provided the team members with the opportunity to learn about financial planning in a real-world setting.

“The most important thing that I've learned is that no one’s going to be an expert at everything,” Bunn said. “You need to recognize what you aren’t good at and what someone else is good at and be able to mash those together to build the best possible thing.”

The team also gained valuable insight on how to better relate to clients.

Being able to simplify complex concepts and bring it down to a reasonable level for a client to understand was a valuable skill Arrott learned, she said.

Students who partake in the challenge have a competitive edge when they enter the job market, Guillemette said.

“Usually, our students who are in the competition get jobs really quickly,” Guillemette said. “It's a signal to employers that they're the best students in our department.”

The team’s success improves the image of the financial planning department and the university since they are beating top ranked schools, Guillemette said.

“For them to come out on top not only the written case, but also probably the best presentation I've seen financial planning students give, just made me very happy for the quality level of the students that the department’s producing,” Guillemette said.

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