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Institute for Financial Planning and Analysis moves ahead with roundtable of professionals

Men in suits at a table

Planning roundtable professionals for the Institute for Financial Planning and Analysis in the College of Business.

One year ago, Illinois State’s College of Business (COB) established the Institute for Financial Planning and Analysis to create a bridge between academics and “the real world.”

To build that bridge, a group of finance professionals is in place to help shape and form the institute’s future. The first roundtable met at the end of May. The seven-member group includes professionals who are all COB alums, represent a variety of financial institutions and bring a diverse range of certifications and expertise.

Finance professor Edgar Norton, director of the institute, hopes that having a roundtable in place will help guide the institute and provide perspective on meaningful programs and initiatives.

“Overall, it’s a way to get input on what’s happening in the industry,” Norton said. “This helps us know what we should be doing so we can provide relevant curriculum and send out well-prepared students to the field.”

To accomplish that, Norton hopes members of the roundtable will utilize their networks to expand the visibility of the institute and academic programs across the financial industry.

“We have some of the top students in the nation attending our institution,” he said. “We want to provide them with opportunities to grow and learn. By raising the visibility of our finance program, we’re hoping these members can be a mouthpiece and cheerleader for our students, identifying anything from mentoring and internships to employment upon graduation.”

Opportunity often comes at a cost. Knowing that, Norton wants roundtable members to champion the need for program support, which could include student scholarships, travel to professional conferences, relevant software that’s used in the industry and basic program support for the institute as a whole.

“We have a solid group of professionals in place,” Norton said. “Their input is going to be invaluable and the potential opportunities that lie ahead for finance students are exciting.”

Improving financial literacy

Jeff Secord is a self-employed investment advisor. He has served on various ISU boards in the past and is looking forward to being a member of the roundtable. His vision for the institute is to not only serve students and employers, but also the general public.

“Education creates financial peace of mind. I think the institute will be a great way to improve levels of financial literacy from current students to Baby Boomers, all of whom have different needs, wants and understanding,” Secord said.

In addition to serving students, employers and individuals, both Norton and Secord hope to change the makeup of the roundtable and finance in general.

“The average financial planner is a white male over 50,” explained Norton. “Our members fit that mold and one of my objectives is to increase the diversity of the roundtable.”

For Secord, who has all daughters and mostly granddaughters, he’s on a mission to help women be more financially literate and also pursue careers in the financial industry.

“By the year 2050, women will control 60 percent of the country’s wealth. We need to move the dial and have more women in finance and financial planning. The institute is a great way to attract them to the field and empower their success.” Currently in financial schools, the student population includes 80 percent men and 20 percent women, according to Secord.

Norton anticipates the roundtable will meet one or two times per year to provide updates and exchange ideas. Knowing he has strong engagement from members and good support from the COB, Norton is eager to move the institute forward.

“Having practitioners help mold and shape our finance program will only help us get better. We want everyone to see this is a good place to send and hire students.”