Course Cor­rec­tion

Ed­u­ca­tors in plan­ning are spear­head­ing a class­room rev­o­lu­tion. Will they ul­ti­mately re­shape the in­dus­try?

Financial Planning - - CONTENT - By Maddy Perkins

Ed­u­ca­tors in plan­ning are spear­head­ing a class­room rev­o­lu­tion that they hope will ad­dress what they see as flaws in the pro­fes­sion. Will they ul­ti­mately re­shape the in­dus­try?

After six years of work­ing as a fi­nan­cial plan­ner, An­drew Head was frus­trated. He be­lieved firms had lost touch with what clients re­ally wanted and weren’t giv­ing ad­vi­sors the sup­port they needed to meet client needs. “I came to the con­clu­sion that rather than just sit­ting on the side­lines and com­plain­ing for the rest of my ca­reer, that maybe I could be in­volved in help­ing change the way things work,” Head says. “It seemed like the best way would be to be reg­u­larly in front of the next gen­er­a­tion of fi­nan­cial plan­ners.” Head is now co-di­rec­tor of the fi­nan­cial plan­ning pro­gram at West­ern Ken­tucky Univer­sity. He also founded the school’s Cen­ter for Fi­nan­cial Suc­cess, a hub for fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy pro­grams. While teach­ing has al­lowed him to shape fu­ture plan­ners the way he had hoped, his work at the cen­ter opened up even more av­enues for change.

“I am con­tin­u­ally in­spired by my stu­dents and have never been more op­ti­mistic about the out­look for the fi­nan­cial plan­ning pro­fes­sion,” Head says. “Nearly ev­ery stu­dent that joins our pro­gram cites a de­sire to help oth­ers as a pri­mary mo­ti­va­tor for their choice.”

While all pro­fes­sors help to shape stu­dents and, by ex­ten­sion, the vo­ca­tion it­self, Head is par­tic­u­larly in­flu­en­tial. Even while teach­ing and lead­ing the cen­ter, he re­mains a prac­tic­ing plan­ner work­ing with in­di­vid­ual clients. That means his hands-on ad­vis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence di­rectly in­flu­ences his course­work and has real-life, real-time im­pli­ca­tions.

Head isn’t alone. Across the coun­try, plan­ners fed up with what they see as flaws in their pro­fes­sion are go­ing back to school. This time, they go as ed­u­ca­tors.

With their real world skills and client-fo­cused ap­proach, they are uniquely po­si­tioned to help shape the next gen­er­a­tion of ad­vi­sors.

At the same time, their in­flu­ence is push­ing ed­u­ca­tional stan­dards, and thus the plan­ning pro­fes­sion, to­ward a more stan­dard­ized set of skills and knowl­edge.

‘BUILD­ING A PRO­FES­SION’

The CFP Board ap­plauds what it sees as an evo­lu­tion to­ward a uni­form set of pro­fi­cien­cies.

While the board has been reg­is­ter­ing aca­demic pro­grams for 30 years, de­gree pro­grams in fi­nan­cial plan­ning are grow­ing and be­com­ing in­creas­ingly in­flu­en­tial.

Fos­ter­ing th­ese de­gree pro­grams is a top pri­or­ity of the CFP Board, ac­cord­ing to CEO Kevin Keller. “We think [de­gree pro­grams are] the fu­ture,” he says. “It’s be­cause we’re build­ing a pro­fes­sion, and I think that’s based on build­ing a de­gree in fi­nan­cial plan­ning.”

Of the 310 board-reg­is­tered pro­grams, 164 (53%) are de­gree pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to the board, which has reg­is­tered 11 new de­gree pro­grams in fi­nan­cial plan­ning this year.

While all CFP Board-reg­is­tered pro­grams, in­clud­ing cer­tifi­cate pro­grams, teach cour­ses that ful­fill the ed­u­ca­tional re­quire­ments for stu­dents to sit for the exam, pro­fes­sors have a unique and in­flu­en­tial role.

‘LIKE A GYM­NAST ON THE BEAM’

Like other pro­fes­sors who are also ac­tive prac­ti­tion­ers, Head says bal­anc­ing the de­mands of stu­dents and clients is dif­fi­cult, but helps to bet­ter in­form his work.

“While there are def­i­nitely days and pe­ri­ods where one of th­ese roles is tak­ing more of my at­ten­tion than the other, on the other hand there’s a syn­ergy

I’ve found,” he says.

“I feel like keep­ing pro­fes­sion­ally ac­tive has kept me more rel­e­vant in the class­room,” Head adds.

Pur­su­ing both tasks at once can be daunt­ing, but also a wel­come chal­lenge, says Nan­dita Das, founder of the new fi­nan­cial plan­ning pro­gram at Delaware State Univer­sity, where she’s an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor.

“It’s a real bal­anc­ing act,” Das says. “I feel like a gym­nast on the beam. But I have two pas­sions: One is teach­ing, one is prac­tic­ing as a plan­ner. I’ve been told end­less times I could make more if I stop teach­ing, but it’s a two-way street for me. What I bring as a prac­ti­tioner to the class­room is very unique.”

Hav­ing ac­cess to both sides makes her lessons stronger, Das says. “I take my class way out­side of the tra­di­tional class­room en­vi­ron­ment, bring­ing in real life cases to my stu­dents and get­ting them in­volved in what­ever ac­tiv­ity helps them — whether it’s shadowing fi­nan­cial plan­ners or at­tend­ing

WHEN PLAN­NERS TEACH, THEY GET A CHANCE “TO IN­TER­ACT WITH STU­DENTS, SEE THE ONES WHO ARE CA­PA­BLE AND WORK THEM INTO THEIR PRAC­TICES,” SAYS PRO­FES­SOR HYRUM SMITH.

con­fer­ences that are valu­able to them,” she says.

To nav­i­gate the time crunch caused by wear­ing two hats, Hyrum Smith, a pro­fes­sor in res­i­dence at Utah Val­ley Univer­sity and owner of the fee-only firm Fi­nan­cial Plan­ning Of­fice, is seek­ing part­ners to help man­age his prac­tice while he teaches full-time. But the bur­den has been worth it, he says. Smith has been able to turn his po­si­tion as a pro­fes­sor into a re­cruit­ing op­por­tu­nity for his own prac­tice.

“I’m a solo prac­ti­tioner with one em­ployee,” Smith says. “The em­ployee is a stu­dent I hired from my re­tire­ment plan­ning class who was ex­cep­tional. I see that as one ad­van­tage for prac­ti­tion­ers work­ing as pro­fes­sors — to in­ter­act with stu­dents, see the ones who are ca­pa­ble and work them into their prac­tices.”

LO­CA­TION, LO­CA­TION, …

Since the CFP Board does not re­quire pro­grams to be based in business schools, plan­ning cour­ses of­ten are found else­where on cam­puses. That means stu­dents and pro­fes­sors alike can ben­e­fit in some surprising ways.

Take Kansas State Univer­sity, for ex­am­ple: KSU’S pro­gram is housed in the school’s Col­lege of Hu­man Ecol­ogy and fea­tures course­work in fam­ily stud­ies and hu­man re­la­tion­ships, fi­nan­cial coun­sel­ing and fi­nan­cial ther­apy. The close prox­im­ity gives stu­dents a ground­ing in real-life is­sues.

It is also a boon for pro­fes­sors who en­joy stretch­ing their pro­fes­sional mus­cles: Those with ex­pe­ri­ence

and train­ing out­side the tra­di­tional B-school cur­ricu­lum can shape the con­ver­sa­tion about fi­nan­cial plan­ning.

“I think [pro­fes­sors] with hu­man sci­ence back­grounds have dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on holis­tic plan­ning than those in a fi­nance de­part­ment would,” says Stu­art Heck­man, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Kansas State Univer­sity and a plan­ner at CGN Ad­vi­sors, an in­de­pen­dent fee-only firm also lo­cated in Man­hat­tan, Kansas.

Heck­man has a doc­tor­ate in fam­ily re­source man­age­ment stud­ies. “It’s help­ful,” he says.

“Over­all, I think when peo­ple of var­i­ous back­grounds are think­ing about th­ese is­sues, [it] just en­riches things, for sure,” Heck­man says.

BUILD­ING A BRIDGE

As de­gree pro­grams for fi­nan­cial plan­ning be­come more wide­spread, the roles played by Heck­man, Head and other teach­ers will take on even greater sig­nif­i­cance.

“I think there will be a manda­tory de­gree in fi­nan­cial plan­ning if you want to be a CFP,” says Nathan Har­ness, fi­nan­cial plan­ning pro­gram di­rec­tor at Texas A&M Univer­sity. “A day will come that you may need a de­gree, maybe a mas­ter’s de­gree.”

For de­gree pro­grams to thrive and grow, they will need to at­tract the at­ten­tion of firms seek­ing new hires, ac­cord­ing to Dave Yeske, di­rec­tor of the fi­nan­cial plan­ning pro­gram at Golden State Univer­sity and manag­ing di­rec­tor of San Fran­cisco RIA Yeske Buie.

Hav­ing prac­tic­ing ad­vi­sors on cam­pus can only help.

“The av­er­age age of fi­nan­cial plan­ners is in their 50s, and there are a lot of peo­ple who need to think about that [suc­ces­sion plan­ning] sooner rather than later,” Yeske says. “Re­cruit­ing new hires from for­mal de­gree pro­grams is the way to go. They still need the ex­pe­ri­ence and you can’t re­place that, but they show up with such a solid foun­da­tion.”

IN­CREAS­ING VIS­I­BIL­ITY

Yeske Buie hires from de­gree pro­grams ex­clu­sively, he adds. But the onus is on ed­u­ca­tors to make sure they’re do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to in­crease their stu­dents’ vis­i­bil­ity, Yeske says.

Har­ness no­tices that many firms still re­cruit out of Texas A&M’S gen­eral fi­nance pro­grams in­stead of its fi­nan­cial plan­ning pro­gram.

And since the pro­fes­sion is rel­a­tively young, he adds, many re­cruiters still look to hire from other pro­fes­sions, rather than turn­ing to aca­demic pro­grams.

“There are still a lot of peo­ple who think the way in is from an out­side chan­nel,” he says. “The in­dus­try hasn’t em­braced aca­demic pro­grams fully. We haven’t done as good of a job as we could at prov­ing our stu­dents are bet­ter than ca­reer chang­ers.”

The so­lu­tion may be as sim­ple as get­ting more prac­ti­tion­ers in­volved with th­ese pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to Scott Du­mond, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Al­fred State Univer­sity.

“Our stu­dents are look­ing for jobs. Those who have em­braced our pro­grams have got­ten a head start on ev­ery­one else,” Du­mond says.

“Come and teach a class. Be a guest speaker. Men­tor a stu­dent. Do mock in­ter­views,” he adds.

DEEPER TIES

Forg­ing deeper ties be­tween the aca­demic and prac­tice com­mu­ni­ties is vi­tal for im­prov­ing the fi­nan­cial plan­ning pro­fes­sion, Yeske says.

“There is be­gin­ning to be more pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion on the aca­demic side, but there’s also now more of a dy­namic in­ter­change in real time be­tween the com­mu­ni­ties of prac­tice,” he says.

“Some of that is trans­mit­ted from the work of ad­junct fac­ulty and prac­ti­tioner aca­demics; some of it comes just from fi­nan­cial plan­ning prac­ti­tion­ers and firms forg­ing deeper con­nec­tions to aca­demic pro­grams for strate­gic rea­sons for the pur­poses of re­cruit­ing,” Yeske adds.

Head agrees, stress­ing that the re­la­tion­ship must grow to en­sure that “what each side is do­ing is valid and val­ued.”

“Not only do ed­u­ca­tors help grow and re­fine ta­lent pools from which the pro­fes­sion in­creas­ingly draws, but we are also ac­tively en­gaged in the re­fine­ment of knowl­edge at higher lev­els,” Head says.

Stu­art Heck­man of CGN Ad­vi­sors says pro­fes­sors “with hu­man sci­ence back­grounds have dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on holis­tic plan­ning.”

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