Virginia Tech students win national championship in financial planning

BLACKSBURG, Va., May 4, 2004 – Three Virginia Tech students, all seniors studying financial planning in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, teamed up to win the 2004 American Express Financial Planning Invitational, bringing home $10,000 in scholarship money for the institution.

Alan Ness, of Riner, Va., Jessica Rada, of Edgemere, Md., and Brett Roper, of Annandale, Va., not only won the overall competition, but they also took first place in the "Plan Presentation to Clients," and finished No. 1 in the "Knowledge Quiz."

Held in the corporate boardroom of American Express headquarters in Minneapolis, the Virginia Tech group also received $1,000 each for their placements, $50 to cover other expenses, and an all-expenses-paid trip. In addition, the College of Financial Planning in Denver, Colo., a co-sponsor of the competition, provided each student with a scholarship for continued professional study in financial planning. Overall, 22 student teams from across the country competed in the annual event.

The semester-long competition actually begins in February, as the teams prepare a comprehensive financial plan for a fictional couple. Based on plan quality, eight teams were invited to the final competition. In Minneapolis, the finalists presented the plan recommendations to a panel of judges and competed in a quiz-show to test their depth of knowledge. In addition, the team had to modify their plan on-site in response to a client "twist" - in this case, the plan was altered by a forgotten credit card with a hefty balance and the desire by a spouse to quit work and return to school.

"Our team worked extremely hard to prepare their plan, and invested many hours in the plan presentation and study for the knowledge quiz," said Ruth Lytton, associate professor in Apparel, Housing and Resource Management and the team's academic adviser. Joining her in the team training was Alex White, assistant professor in Apparel, Housing and Resource Management and Derek Klock, a graduate of the department and MBA candidate in the Pamplin College of Business.

Last year, Virginia Tech finished second overall, but won first place for the financial plan and the presentation of recommendations to the judges. That team won $5,000 in scholarship funds for the program. "The 'How Do You Know' challenge, or knowledge quiz, has been our nemesis the last two years," Lytton said.