Texas Tech University

Personal Financial Planning Team Heading to National Competition

Heidi Toth

September 3, 2015

Seniors Alex Garcia, Shelby Huber and Isaac Rodd are one of eight teams to qualify.

PFP Team
Isaac Rodd, Alex Garcia
and Shelby Huber

A team from Texas Tech University's Department of Personal Financial Planning is one of eight throughout the country selected to participate in a national competition at one of the industry's largest conferences.

To qualify for the competition, held at the Financial Planning Association's semiannual conference Sept. 26-28 in Boston, seniors Alex Garcia, Shelby Huber and Isaac Rodd compiled a case study based on a fictional family's financial questions. They submitted their plan on May 15, then dispersed across the country for internships. They found out in late July their case study was accepted for the final stages of competition.

All three said they were confident they would make the final round, but it was still nice to get the phone call.

“We put a lot of time into it, but it was still a lot and nothing we've ever done before because none of us had taken a Capstone course yet,” said Huber, who is from Keller. “That's kind of the end of your degree.”

The team has a lot on the line for this competition. Conference attendees include their faculty, Texas Tech alumni now at other universities and professionals seeking potential hires.

They also want to be the first team from Texas Tech to win this competition. Red Raiders have won every other major competition in the world of personal finance and finished second in this particular contest, but have yet to win.

“There are definitely nerves,” Huber said. “It's a big deal. We have a reputation to uphold as a university.”

Qualifying for Boston

FPA representatives contacted professor John Salter about the competition, and he presented it to a class. Enough students showed interest that they took an online vote to see which three would participate. Huber, Garcia and Rodd came out on top.

John Salter

They were happy about it but admitted the process was a lot of hard work. They couldn't consult with any professors or use financial planning software they learned in class and their internships. They had to use Microsoft Excel, which the students had used in class, but not to build a comprehensive financial plan.

Adding to the difficulty, the students had no actual family sitting in front of them needing help. They couldn't ask questions, measure priorities or offer ideas to solve an issue before creating a plan. They had to make assumptions, explain why they made those assumptions and provide alternatives.

“I don't know that there were deliberate curveballs,” Garcia, who is from Austin, said. “The information was sometimes vague.”

PFP chairwoman JOhn Salter, who is the co-adviser along with Salter, wasn't surprised when they got the call, either.

“The Financial Planning Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for Alex, Shelby and Isaac to showcase what they are learning in the financial planning program at Texas Tech,” Hampton said. “They will represent the university well at the Financial Planning Association Conference.  Of course, we would love to see them bring home the overall first-place prize, but we are very proud of them for being among the eight teams selected to compete in Boston.”

Preparing for the conference

Team members have less than a month to prepare for the competition. A big chunk of that preparation is preparing for the presentation, which should mimic the format of a financial planning professional talking to a family. They also will go through the judges' feedback on their case study and make changes.

Vickie Hampton

“There are a few things we're going to tweak,” Garcia said. “Not a complete overhaul.”

From there they plan and rehearse their presentation and review facts for the quiz bowl, which they called a fun addition to the contest. The information will come from the Certified Financial Planner curriculum they study in class.

“It's pretty cool,” said Rodd, who is from Tucson. He and Huber took first place in a similar contest earlier this year, so he's confident about the quiz bowl portion.

There's some pressure on the team. Advisers from Garcia's internship will be there as will a number of their professors. Anyone can come in and watch the presentation, so they could end up presenting to dozens of people.

Outside of the competition aspect, they're looking forward to the opportunities to network with potential future employers and coworkers. Professionals from throughout the country attend this conference, and they're looking forward to introducing themselves and their skills.

They also want to meet their peers and learn what students are doing in other programs.

“It'll be nice to network with students, too, because in the future they could be our coworkers,” Garcia said.