Inspiring New Leadership in Wealth Management
A new program at the Wisconsin School of Business paves the way for a new generation of financial advisors to ignite the wealth management industry. Seeing the need and market demand for younger, more diverse professionals in the field, the School partnered with Baird in 2014 to develop the Wealth Management and Financial Planning program (WMFP) and cultivate a cohort of young financial advisors prepared to meet the industry’s needs.
“There’s a need for training in this field,” says Mark Fedenia (BBA ’77, M.S. ’79, Ph.D. ’87), associate professor in the Finance, Investment, and Banking Department at the Wisconsin School of Business. “It’s a key underlying financial service and it’s becoming a more significant source of revenue for firms.”
In recent decades, the wealth management industry has evolved to meet the increasingly complex financial needs of clients who are faced with an ever-growing number of investment opportunities and products. With nearly one-third of today’s wealth managers and financial advisors nearing retirement in the next decade, market demand for younger, highly trained professionals in the field inspired a program to provide students with the skills necessary to succeed.
“It’s essential for our industry to think about the next generation of clients,” says Mike Schroeder (BBA ’79), president of private wealth management at Baird. “The only way you’re going to be able to establish relationships with clients and their heirs, and maintain them on a long-term basis, is to make sure you have younger people on the advisor team that serves them.”
“As the older generation of wealth managers and financial advisors gets closer to retirement, my generation is seeing an opportunity to move into the field,” says Meredith Frank (BBA ’17). “The WMFP program prepares us to enter the industry.”
The program got its start when Fedenia, who is now director of the WMFP program, met Schroeder, his former student, to discuss the idea of starting a program to meet the wealth management industry’s changing needs. Together, they conceived of WMFP. Fedenia built on the idea by launching WMFP with a class of 25 students in 2014. He credits Schroeder and Baird with giving the program the support it needed to get off the ground.
— Mark Fedenia (BBA ’77, M.S. ’79, Ph.D. ’87), Associate professor in Finance, Investment, and Banking, Wisconsin School of Business
“Mike was the key person who enabled us to launch a very special program,” says Fedenia. “He made the initial commitment to do this, and every year since he has put himself and Baird’s top executives and experts at our disposal. He also reaches out to other firms to join us in our effort.”
The program is comprised of a rigorous set of business school courses including six required courses that qualify students to sit for the Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) exam, which is the leading professional designation for aspiring wealth managers. The program culminates with a capstone course that gives students the practical experience they need to be effective professionals immediately upon graduation.
Transforming learning through educational innovation
Fedenia employs contemporary teaching techniques in delivering the capstone course; using a flipped classroom approach, students digest course material ahead of time and spend class time actively working through wealth management and financial planning scenarios for a “real” client. Instead of using a textbook, case actors are used to role play contemporary planning situations. Through this, students learn to address the wealth management and financial planning needs of real people.
“Students loved having the real-world experience of sitting across from someone and getting his or her immediate feedback and playing off those emotions,” says Audrey Blanke (BBA ’15), financial planning associate at Baird and former WMFP student. “The course was constantly evolving.”
Students also get access to real experts in the field.
“Baird professionals came to campus every week to discuss a different wealth management topic with us that related to our semester-long projects,” says Frank. “No other program has allowed me to be in such close contact with professionals from really well-known financial planning firms.”
Baird also helps Fedenia vet the industry’s most relevant decision support systems for students to use in class. The program currently utilizes MoneyGuidePro, a state-of-the-art wealth management and financial planning tool. This helps students learn about wealth management while also providing the chance to learn software they will likely use in the industry.
“Working with MoneyGuidePro was a huge benefit,” says Blanke. “Having worked with the program for nine months before coming into my internship at Baird was really helpful.”
Success in growing numbers
The program has already seen rapid adoption among students at the Wisconsin School of Business. In the 2015-16 academic year, course demand ballooned to 63 students, with only 50 being accommodated. This necessitated increasing capacity to two sessions for 2016-17.
“It’s so natural for this generation to find creative ways to bring the technology and resources we offer into the wealth management practice,” says Schroeder. “That’s why we want to bring more youth into the business.”
—Meredith Frank (BBA ’17)
With increasing numbers and growing interest in the program, WMFP is poised to continue educating and preparing students to succeed as the next generation of wealth mangers.
“The partnership between the university and the business world is essential for students,” Schroeder says. “It provides career opportunities for young people and it provides a pool of talent we need to continue to perpetuate our business.
“I am absolutely convinced that the University of Wisconsin can be known throughout the U.S. as the leader and the premier school in wealth management as we continue this program,” he says. “We’re not going to change the world overnight, but we’ve got to invest in the future.”