Griffith University continues to cement its place at the forefront of the financial planning sector, with three students taking out the major categories at the 2016 FPA Awards.
Masters student Cody Harmon was named the FPA Financial Planner of the Year, undergraduate Bradley Aleckson was crowned University Student of the Year, and Griffith Business School alumnus Cynthia Sercombe was announced as Paraplanner of the Year.
The victory is particularly sweet for Tupicoffs paraplanner Cynthia, as it’s the first time the awards have recognised paraplanning as its own profession in the awards. “As a paraplanner you just learn to accept that you’re not going to be rewarded, it’s the financial planner that wins awards usually,” she explains. “So it was just really nice to be able to have some recognition for the back office work that gets done. And I was stoked to hear that I won!”
She says one thing she believes contributed to her win was emphasising how she wanted to see paraplanning evolve in the industry, something her employer fully supports.
“I wrote in my application a lot about how I wanted to see the paraplanning element of financial planning continue to progress and be seen as its own part of the profession,” she says.
“I talked about how paraplanners should be encouraged to stand up against bad planning advice, and understand that they have their own technical competence that should be valued … they are just as much the professional as the financial planner themselves.”
Cody was over the moon with his award, saying the recognition confirmed for him that his career was going in the right direction.
“I thought what I have been doing with my advice process is pretty sound, and that it was time to put it up against the acid test across a national industry-wide award. It was a good way to see where I stood,” he said. “The FPA awards are the most prestigious awards you can get in the industry, so I thought: ‘I’ll put myself out there and see where I stand.’
“When I won, it was pure elation.”
The Masters of Financial Planning student was inspired to compete for the crown because of the qualities the FPA were looking for. “I thought it would be a good award to apply for because it’s about technical expertise and contribution the community and grades and all of that, nothing about how much business you’re writing or how many products you are flogging,” Cody says.
Cody received an award for academic excellence in 2015, followed by achieving top marks in applied financial planning during his studies, which he says both contributed immeasurably to his FPA win.
“My results and knowledge attained from Griffith’s Masters Degree definitely assisted me in taking the award home,” he says.
The passionate environmentalist is also committed to giving back, and co-ordinates a community garden in Armadale, Victoria, in his spare time.
“I believe in environmental sustainability. We collect compost from the public that would otherwise go into green waste disposal, we do fundraisers and so forth… I think it’s important to do that and you have to give back.”
Bradley was thrilled at his Student of the Year win, something he was inspired to chase after since the moment he heard heard about the awards at the FPA Conference in Brisbane earlier in the year.
“It’s sort of summed up my four years of hard work at university,” he explains. “Day-in day-out, when you’re at uni, you can see the end goal but there’s no reward each day for showing up. But now coming to this award, it’s made everything I’ve done worthwhile.
“It’s a great feeling knowing I’m capable of achieving greatness.”
The Bachelor of Commerce student credits a combination of factors on his latest success. “Griffith contributed a lot to my win,” he says. “But also working part time definitely helped immensely. And bringing the two together was what really clinched it.”
Cynthia agrees that her education was instrumental in getting her where she is today. “I really benefitted from the industry interaction,” she says of her time at Griffith. “I mean, that’s how I got my first job paraplanning.
“Obviously the degree content itself is excellent,” she continues. “You can see by the fact that Griffith graduates are continuing to be at the top of their field.”