Texas Tech University

Financial Planning Team Headed to National Competition

Glenys Young

September 22, 2017


Faculty members at six of the other seven universities received their doctorates from Texas Tech's Department of Personal Financial Planning.

Texas Tech University will be extremely well represented during this year's Financial Planning Challenge, part of the Financial Planning Association's (FPA) annual conference.

Texas Tech's FPA Challenge Team is one of eight from across the country that will compete in the challenge Oct. 2-4 in Nashville. And beyond that, a doctoral alumnus from Texas Tech's Department of Personal Financial Planning (PFP) now works on the faculty of six of the other seven universities involved.

The other competing universities and the Texas Tech alumni teaching there are:

FPA Challenge

The FPA Challenge is open to one team of up to three undergraduate students per university. Texas Tech's team includes:

  • Tanner Castle, a senior PFP major from Lubbock
  • Victoria Gibbs, a senior PFP major from Lindale
  • Braden Givens, a senior PFP major from Tyler

In Phase 1, the written financial planning case study, teams were given profiles for two hypothetical clients for whom they prepared a comprehensive financial plan in the spring. They could not seek advice or help from professionals, including their own faculty adviser. After the first phase was judged, only the top eight teams advanced to the national competition.

Tanner Castle
Tanner Castle

"It's quite an honor to be a member of one of the top eight teams selected to compete in Nashville,” Castle said. "My team and I put in countless hours of work to ensure that our plan would compete with the best schools out there. I've learned some very important lessons both personally and professionally throughout this process.

"Personally, I've learned what it takes to make three totally different personalities work cohesively and receive successful results. Professionally, I've learned about the time and effort it takes to create a comprehensive plan for a complex client situation. We expect to see some stiff competition in Nashville, so we will come prepared to compete at the level that is expected from the top teams in the country.”

Castle, Gibbs and Givens will have their work cut out for them. In Phase 2, on Oct. 2, each competing team must orally present its case study to a panel of judges. Phase 3, on Oct. 3, is the "How Do You Know?” Challenge, a two-hour "Jeopardy”-style quiz bowl that tests teams' financial planning knowledge.

Victoria Gibbs
Victoria Gibbs

"The three of us combined form a pretty solid team, and I am confident we will bring home first place,” Gibbs said. "While doing this challenge, I have tested everything I have learned from my time in the PFP program here at Texas Tech. I was able to put it all together and see how it all flows. In the end, I hope to walk away with a first place trophy and maybe even a full-time job offer.”

The top three teams will receive scholarships for their school – $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place and $1,000 for third place – and members of the first-place team receive a full scholarship to FPA's highly acclaimed residency program and one hour of career coaching.

"Placing in the top eight nationally is a great achievement for us as a team,” Givens said. "With all of our diligence and dedication to this challenge, we expected nothing less. For us three to work together, it took a lot of collaboration and problem solving while also being as productive as possible. Perfecting our plan in a timeframe of six weeks showed me how to balance my academics and organizations on top of the completion of this plan. I am excited to represent Texas Tech and the PFP department at the FPA conference.”

Braden Givens
Braden Givens

The idea for the challenge – originally sponsored by American Express and called the American Express Planning Invitational – was formed on the Texas Tech campus in February 1999 during a meeting of American Express executives and Texas Tech financial planning faculty, said PFP department chairman Vickie Hampton. What was then the Family Financial Planning Team took home the second-place trophy and $5,000 from the inaugural competition in 2000.

Texas Tech generally has been among the competition's top eight teams, earning second- and third-place finishes in various years. But as exciting as it would be to win first place, Texas Tech's team adviser says winning isn't necessary for the university to benefit.

"I think it's great for the students – they put in a lot of work, and it's a lot of work they haven't done before,” said John Salter, an associate professor of PFP. "It's good for the school because the competition is open to financial planners to come listen to, so we get a lot of visibility out of it. From a marketing and public relations standpoint, it's just as important to be in top eight as it would be to win it. It's keeping our name out there.”

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