Seniors and best friends Andrew Todd and Stewart Manges capped their spring semester with a very impressive and exciting feat. The duo became the first Olivet College team to enter the Financial Services Career Exploration Competition — and to win the competition. In addition to a scholarship, Andrew and Stewart also gained invaluable career and networking experience.
“In short, it means a lot to win the competition,” Stewart said. “This competition demonstrated that we can compete and win in competitions against much larger schools. As well as that we can compete and win against graduate students. This is indicative of the quality of work that we are able to produce and helps show the quality of work that Olivet College students are capable of creating.”
To enter the competition, Andrew and Stewart were tasked with writing a research essay under the theme “Charting a Career Journey in Financial Services.” The assignment was to explore the progression of careers in two financial service professions by interviewing professionals in the careers selected. Teams were required to interview at least eight financial service professionals, but Andrew and Stewart interviewed 19 professionals to collect a larger pool of data.
Andrew and Stewart competed against teams from colleges and universities across the country, with only five essays selected as finalists for the presentation portion. When they learned they had been selected as finalists, Andrew and Stewart set out on a mission to represent Olivet College as a frontrunner in the competition.
The next step was to prepare a 15-minute oral presentation where teams were asked to describe how the information they uncovered in the interviews of professionals influenced them to either pursue or not pursue the profession explored. Andrew and Stewart chose to model their presentation after a video game, where each career path received a score based on their passions. Not only did this method make the presentation interesting and interactive, but Andrew and Stewart noted that it would be an important tool to help high school students explore careers in the field. The presentation proved to be a hit among the judging panel, as they selected Andrew and Stewart for the top spot in the competition.
“Our biggest takeaway was the level of optimism expressed by the professionals we interviewed,” Andrew said. “Most of our interviewees expressed concerns about issues that will arise in the industry, but nearly all of them thought that the industry would have little issue overcoming these obstacles. If nothing else, this helped confirm that we are headed down an excellent path.”
While the College has been a longtime participant in the Financial ConNEXTion Educational Cruise, the host of the competition, this year was the first time an OC team entered, thanks to support from Professors Areerat Lertcaipitak, Ph.D., and Eakamon Oumtrakool, Ph.D.
“I am so proud of Andrew and Stewart who are not afraid of challenges,” Professor Lertcaipitak said. “These two students committed and worked hard for this project for two semesters. They set a regular schedule to discuss with Professor Oumtrakool and me every week since fall 2019. Their perseverance made the project standout at each stage of the competition. After the Financial Services Professional Committee had announced the Olivet college team as the winner, I have been receiving phone calls, emails and texts from faculty at other universities and financial advisers congratulating and giving compliments regarding the quality and creativity of Andrew and Stewart’s project. Most financial advisers who contacted me expressed their interest in inviting Andrew and Stewart to an interview for full-time positions at their firms.”
“This two-semester long project reveals great qualities of our students leading to multiple job offers,” said Professor Oumtrakool. “It took a great deal of commitment, problem solving and creativity to come up with a winning strategy. FSP has been our great partner.”
The deep regard Professor Lertcaipitak and Professor Oumtrakool hold for their students is matched by Andrew and Stewart.
“Both Professor Lertcaipitak and Professor Oumtrakool worked with us at every opportunity across the two semesters that we worked on this project,” Stewart said. “They even stayed on campus to work with us until 8 p.m. once! We would not have been able to succeed without their input, effort, corrections and motivation. Additionally, we would like to thank Professors Mike Oyster, Tom Humphreys and Mike Weglarz for their input and willingness to help us on this project.”
As Stewart and Andrew prepare to graduate in December 2020, both double majors in insurance and risk management and financial planning, the friends are feeling more confident than ever.
“The biggest impact that this competition had on our careers comes from the incredible amount of networking that this project required,” Andrew said. “We connected with 19 professionals over the course of the project, often having phone conversations in excess of an hour with them. This develops a much deeper connection than you might develop at a career fair, for example.”
While Andrew and Stewart are open to further exploring the field of financial planning, the duo is hoping for careers in the insurance industry. Stewart, who enjoyed an internship with Accident Fund, is interested in loss control, while Andrew, who had a great internship at Commercial Pioneer Mutual, has his sights set on becoming an insurance underwriter.
“We would like to encourage current or future Olivet College financial planning students to enter into this competition every year,” Stewart emphasized. “Doing this project is the most effective way to meaningfully expand your network of professionals across various careers and is a surefire way to develop your personal brand, get the word out about your upcoming career in financial services, and give you a shot at significant scholarship money.”
Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.