A group of students from Chinese University beat 475 students from seven other tertiary institutes to take the top prize in this year's SCMP/IFPHK Financial Planner Awards - University Student Category. The four first- and third-year business students from the university - George Lam Ka-shing, Junes Shek, Wong Siu-hong and Anna Shiu Man-yee - won, among other prizes, an HK$8,000 scholarship, internships at leading financial companies, a trophy and certificates. Team leader Mr Lam, who just graduated, said the participants found the competition challenging because they had to take their academic knowledge and apply it to real world situations. He said being quizzed on counselling skills and the ability to convince clients was also challenging as they had never done this before. As part of their first prize Ms Shek and Ms Shiu won internships at global financial service provider Manulife and platform service provider iFast respectively this summer. The case in this year's student category involved assuming the identity of a 25-year-old financial planner who was advising a former schoolmate from university. The 'client', Jack, aged 23, had recently begun working after graduating and planned to do an MBA, and to take care of his ageing parents who were to retire soon. The winning team recommended the purchase of a HK$1million term life insurance policy, with critical illness coverage, to insure Jack against the cost of any expensive medical treatment he might need if he became sick in the future. They also recommended the purchase of a disability income rider to shield him from the loss of income should he be unable to work and several other measures, including reducing monthly spending, putting savings into foreign currencies rather than keeping his money in deposit accounts, and for his parents to consider selling or remortgaging their apartment to pay for an overseas MBA degree. Contingency plans were prepared for scenarios such as discovering that the client's father got cancer, or his parents lost their jobs before retirement, or in case his parents refused to provide monetary aid to finance his overseas study. The final round of the student category was held last month at the Luk Kwok Hotel in Wan Chai, where the five top teams presented their financial plans to a panel of judges. One of the judges, Bruno Lee, HSBC head of wealth management, personal financial services (Hong Kong), said the winning team demonstrated a clear understanding of the client's background. They also articulated on the dilemma that the client faced between saving and spending money on education, all the while factoring in the client's concerns over taking care of his elderly parents. But Mr Lee added that what separated the winning team from the other entries was that they were bold enough to explain to the client the trade-offs and sacrifices he would have to make to accomplish his goals. He said the other teams focused on too many things, over-analysed the situation, and tried to please the customer by telling him that he could reach all of his goals without making any sacrifices. 'One of the things financial planners have to deal with quite often is that the customer may have unrealistic goals or certain conflicting goals,' Mr Lee said. 'The job of the financial planner is to help the customer understand the constraints or alternatives. In this aspect the winning team was bold enough to lay down what the alternatives were, and what potential trade-offs they could make.' Overall, he said he was impressed with the quality of entries in the student category. He said students were able to break down the case into its components, analyse it, and come up with recommendations. He said that since these students had yet to undergo professional financial planner training, it was common for the teams in general to downplay the investment portion of their proposals, and to use generic asset allocations and basic asset classes as building blocks for their plans. Two teams from Polytechnic University secured the second and third places. They also received scholarships and trophies. Teams from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and City University took the two consolation prizes. Trophies will be awarded to the three best entries from each university, and all competitors will receive a certificate of merit.