Having graduated with his Bachelor of Business degree with a High Distinction average and four Dean’s Awards for his outstanding academic achievement – placing him in the top 2 per cent of over 10,000 business faculty students – it’s hardly surprising that John Dacker CFP® takes his educational responsibilities very seriously.
So much so, that the father of two, from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, took out the prestigious Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award for being the highest achieving student in Semester 2 of the CFP® Certification Unit – an honour not lost on the Private Client Adviser from Shadforth Financial Group.
And although John has only notched up five years as a financial planner, he has been actively working in the financial services profession since 2008, where he has provided specialist technical support to clients and other planners, as well as providing managerial oversight and leadership to a boutique advisory firm. Naturally, he viewed the CFP® designation as the obvious progression to advance his technical skills as a financial planner.
“Once I decided to make financial planning my career, I was eager to get the required degree and CFP® Mark to clearly differentiate me as a professional,” John says.
However, he concedes that undertaking the CFP® Certification Program didn’t come without its challenges, with the demands of juggling his family, job and study commitments, placing additional pressures on his busy life.
“The key is to have an understanding and supportive spouse,” he laughs. “However, undertaking additional professional study does require sacrifices.”
Better time management
To help John better manage the rigours of study with his family and business commitments, he often referred back to some words of wisdom that his dad once shared with him: ‘Start how you want to finish.’
“This advice reminded me that whether it’s my studies, a new client relationship, undertaking a project at work or anything else – make sure you start how you want to finish. This goes to the heart of being well prepared, having a clear plan and clear goals, and putting in your best effort.”
This advice proved invaluable in helping John manage his work/life/study balance, particularly during the final semester of his studies, when his wife was pregnant with their second son.
“The birth of our son, Rowan, came two weeks before I sat the final exam, so this advice really helped me to remain focused and get through my studies.”
John did most of his reading on his daily bus commute to and from the office, as well as at lunchtime. By doing so, he was able to spend more time with his family when he got home, with any additional studying or course work undertaken once his children were in bed.
However, he believes the best tips he learnt for undertaking the CFP® Certification Program, and which served him well throughout his study regime, was to start early and break down the course work into as many small goals or steps as possible.
“These were two ways that helped me stay on track,” he says. “And with the inevitable demands of family and work, by starting early, if you do start to fall behind with your study schedule, you still have some time to catch up, if you need to.”
John also took advantage of studying with colleagues who were also undertaking the CFP® Certification Program.
“For CFP1 and CFP2, there were two other colleagues I was able to catch up with and share ideas with, which I found helpful. However, I ended up doing the last course of units by myself.”
John also benefitted from using the FPA Learn facility, which provided him with the necessary support throughout the program. This included data and resources via an interactive student platform, live and recorded tutorials, access to self supported study groups, dedicated subject matter experts to help assist in a chat room, and a student help desk.
“FPA Learn is a really intuitive system, with plenty of good resources available on it to help students. And the change in format of the print material, reducing in size from the larger folders to A5 books, was a huge benefit. It meant I could easily read these materials on my bus commute.”
The benefits of study
Graduating as the highest performing student in the final unit of the CFP® Certification Program was a very humbling achievement for John, who says it was “a great honour to receive the award”.
“Winning this award is recognition of the hard work that I’ve put into my studies, because this program has no shortcuts. To cap off my studies with the Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award is simply amazing.
“It validates my decision to achieve the highest professional globally recognised designation, which provides clients with the confidence they are dealing with a professional who is at the peak of their ethical, educational and technical competencies.”
In presenting John with his award, FPA CEO Dante De Gori CFP® said: “The rigorous CFP® Certification Assessment unit demands students to be at the top of their game, so to receive the Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award is a significant achievement. John’s outstanding results reflect his commitment and dedication, and I congratulate him on his efforts.”
The Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award
The Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award was established in 2014 in memory of Gwen Fletcher AM, who was considered by many to be the ‘first lady’ of financial planning.
The award honours in perpetuity the memory of Gwen Fletcher, and supports one of her key legacies in her lifelong endeavours to champion the vital role of education and its central importance in nurturing the financial planning profession.
Gwen Fletcher was not only a respected financial planner but also an educator and mentor, and helped shape the industry into an emerging profession. She was also responsible for bringing the CFP® Mark to Australia in 1990.
The Gwen Fletcher Memorial Award is presented each semester to the highest achieving student in the CFP® Certification Unit, which covers all three required assessments in the CFP® Certification Program.
As part of the award, recipients receive a certificate of recognition, a complementary ticket for the FPA Professionals Congress and $1,000, which is funded by the FPA.