Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.
Griffith University student, Graeme Morris was named winner of the 2019 FPA University Student of the Year Award.
Graeme Morris chalks up his motivation for studying financial planning at Griffith University to a personal journey he was on at the time.
Prior to beginning his studies in financial planning, Graeme changed his degree discipline three times, moving from social work to sports science and then physiotherapy – finally settling on a Bachelor of Commerce, with majors in financial planning and accounting.
But while these course changes might seem surprising, there was a common thread linking all of Graeme’s decisions, which was based on a deep-seated desire to help others.
“The biggest personal driver for me is to actually help people. I get a great sense of personal satisfaction and purpose from helping others,” Graeme says.
He attributes this to having grown up in a single parent household, along with four other siblings, where money and financial hardship was a constant struggle for his family.
“Managing the household budget and making ends meet has always been challenging for us. I also went into foster care for a while, but all these challenges helped build my character and my determination to help others who are also struggling to get by.”
Armed with this real life experience, it is fitting that Graeme did ultimately change his degree studies to a Bachelor of Commerce, which he says will allow him to make a beneficial difference to the financial lives of others within the wider community.
Degree studies: BCom (Accounting and Financial Planning)
Graduation: Finish February 2020, with graduation in June/July 2020
It is also fitting that the 27-year-old Griffith University student, who is also a University Financial Planning scholarship recipient, has taken out the 2019 FPA University Student of the Year Award for his strong University Grade Point Average and his involvement in extra-curricular activities. These include his membership of the Griffith University Association of Commerce, his internship and part-time work in the profession, his relationship with his local FPA Chapter and for being an active member of the FPA Emerging Professionals Network.
“I have been doing a lot of work with students at the Griffith University Association of Commerce, including running events, providing them with advice and connecting them with potential employers. I was recognised as a student leader at Griffith University, and part of that involves mentoring and the self-development of students, which I’ve been honoured to be involved with.”
Capping off the journey
Graeme is humbled to win the 2019 University Student of the Year Award, saying that it’s a terrific way to cap off his journey within the tertiary space, while validating his decision to change his degree majors when he was so close to finishing his degree in physiotherapy.
“There’s no other greater reward or achievement as a student of financial planning than to win this award. Importantly, it shows that you can achieve anything if you really want to and are prepared to put in the effort,” he says.
“Looking back on my own journey, I was told that I would never be good enough to attend university. And while I might not be the best academic, I’ve shown that if you have the determination, you can achieve anything once you put your mind to it.”
Graeme is currently doing work experience with Nat Daley AFP® from Hard Line Wealth in Coolangatta, to help transition him across into a full-time career within the profession.
“I first met Nat at a networking event in 2018 and from there he took me under his wing and has been a great mentor. I’ve learnt so much working with Nat and the team at Hard Line Wealth.”
In fact, Graeme credits his FPA University Student of the Year Award win to the quality of mentoring he has received as part of his work experience with Nat.
“My key advice to any students studying financial planning is to find a mentor,” he says. “You need to be a sponge and absorb as much information as you can. The foundation work you do with ‘on-the-job’ training really sets you up for a future within the profession.”
Graeme’s involvement at Hard Line Wealth started in a Client Services Officer role, but he is also invited to sit in on client meetings, which provides him with a better understanding of how planners formulate their client strategies.
Nat is currently working with Graeme on his future career path within the business, which includes formally joining the company as an Associate, with completion of the CFP® Certification Program firmly on Graeme’s radar within the next couple of years.
Better student engagement
With Graeme actively involved with the FPA Emerging Professionals Network and the Griffith University Association of Commerce, he is well placed to offer his views on how the profession can better engage with and encourage more students to consider a career in financial planning.
He believes the best way of doing this is by allowing students to connect with other students.
“Students want to connect with students,” he says. “So, having the FPA Emerging Professionals Network is fantastic, as it really allows uni students to connect with each other, as well as providing a conduit to engage with the wider profession.
“However, I also believe it is essential that the profession does a better job at engaging with students at schools. When I was at school, I wasn’t aware of what financial planning was. So, planting the financial planning seed much earlier with school students is the way to go if the profession wants to improve financial literacy and encourage more students to become financial planners.”
Don’t be afraid to follow-up
While finding a mentor is top of Graeme’s advice list for any uni student currently studying financial planning, he also has some other tips he is keen to share with students.
“My biggest fear at uni was getting a job once I had finished my studies. I dealt with this by going to as many relevant industry events as possible, including meeting as many people as possible. Get their details, connect with them on LinkedIn and social media, and don’t be afraid to follow-up with them,” he says.
“It can be quite daunting reaching out to a professional, but they were once just starting out, just like you. So, being pro-active and taking that extra step to reach out to businesses and planners, can land you that perfect job, just like it did with me.”
And his final piece of advice?
“Remember, no question is stupid,” he says. “I asked many practitioners some pretty basic questions but all of them were very generous sharing their time and insights with me. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience within the profession, and there’s no better way of garnering that than by asking.”
The FPA congratulates the runner-ups of the FPA University Student of the Year Award: