As chairman of Envestnet Institute On Campus (EIOC), I am fortunate to interact with students, spending time on college campuses, holding virtual seminars, and providing one-on-one counseling. In my conversations with students and young adults during this trying time, I find they are struggling to figure out their next moves, contemplating the changing conditions on college campuses, and facing heightened financial insecurities.
The fact is, in the span of a few short months, the world has changed – the once-robust job market has slowed, and talented individuals are being laid off. Individuals were financially ill-prepared for the economic shutdown, and there has been resulting devastation to many American households. Today, over 59 percent of American workers live paycheck to paycheck and only 38 percent of Americans have an emergency fund.1
Parents have begun questioning the cost of their children’s educations and are also questioning the value of the on-campus experience versus virtual learning. Scott Galloway, Professor of Marketing at NYU, noted that tuition rates have risen 1,400% in the last 40 years without substantial changes to the university experience.2 As universities develop contingency plans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, students and parents alike are evaluating the investment of college with the potential of on-campus learning being delayed or limited in the upcoming semester. Not surprising, results of a new survey by YouGov for Forbes Advisor show 68 percent of respondents think attending college remotely should cost less than attending in person.3 Universities are struggling to define their new value propositions as parents begin questioning the cost of their children’s educations. With virtual education becoming the new norm, many students are planning to take a gap year. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, a survey found 12 percent of students are considering deferring college enrollment this fall.4
The fact is, some of the current challenges were already emerging trends that have simply now accelerated to the point of action. Here are three examples of how we, as an industry, can effect change to support both students and American families:
1. Deploy Technology to Help Solve the Financial Literacy Problem
The current pandemic crisis accentuates the need for basic knowledge around budgeting and savings that an individual can readily access. Our industry’s natural response is to swoop in with slide decks and fly-by, company-sponsored events that have little measurable impact.
Developing short tutorials to educate individuals on the basics of financial literacy would help provide the necessary knowledge and skills to make informed financial decisions regarding personal money management. Topics can be as basic as, “What is the difference between a debit card and a credit card?” More complex topics could be, “Should I buy or lease a car?” and “Do I rent or buy a home?” Our industry is perfectly positioned to use technology, not only to educate, but also to adjust people’s core attitudes and beliefs, so a change in financial behavior can help them reach a future of financial freedom and security.
2. Strengthen Partnerships Between Universities and the Financial Services Industry
Universities have increasingly been hiring industry experts to teach classes on everything from portfolio construction, trading, sales, and sales management. This trend needs to be expanded upon with industry and university collaboration to develop classes designed to bring practical knowledge and workforce-ready talent to the marketplace. Rather than today’s version of summer internships, they should evolve into a year-round experience with agreed-upon projects and measurable results. This can be achieved through the hands-on use of technology. These are concepts upon which our EIOC program was created.
3. Expand Year-Round Curriculum
Online learning, podcasts, and webinars should be a year-round experience for full college credit. Classes could expand to teach the financial services industry, not only by subject, but also by job function. As an example, why not allow the student to experience an internal client service role and be taught its components? This idea could also be expanded into roles within advisor organizations where actual succession and growth planning takes place.
Accomplishing the Mission
Today, a student can get certified to use Bloomberg terminals. Why not use other readily available software that is used in the industry (e.g., tools used to design ETF strategy, account aggregation tools, analytics tools, etc.) to bring the student closer to real-life, practical application? This would serve to bridge the gap by making a student a more attractive, hirable job candidate.
The above discussion is focused on college students. The fact is, we as an industry, must broaden our audience. Our industry must make a coordinated effort to diversify the audience we serve. Tools created by the financial services industry will be most effective if we are all using the same set of learning modules. The modules must be readily accessible, both in the classroom setting and virtually.
Increasing the financial wellness of American families over time starts by introducing financial literacy to children in grade school. Our younger audience should be taught the very basics inclusive of how money works, compounding, debit vs credit, and budgeting. This could be accomplished by gamification, which would keep them engaged through the process. These financial building blocks would give students practical insights into being educated consumers beyond the primary years and into high school. An example of a much-needed high school course would be what to expect when you land your first job. This course could include how to read your paycheck; budgeting and savings; 401k investing; basic understanding of taxes; how an HSA account works; paying off student loans.
In short, current events have dictated an accelerated timeline for solving the financial literacy problems that exist at all levels. Unprecedented times call for thoughtful execution.
Chairman Of The Board at Envestnet Institute On Campus
Jim is the former Chief Executive Officer of Pershing Managed Account Solutions and former co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of the Lockwood family of companies. He is a former Managing Director and member of the Executive Committee for Pershing LLC, where he was responsible for overseeing the delivery of turnkey and private-label managed account solutions to Pershing’s broker-dealer and registered investment advisor customers.
Jim also served as the 2011 Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Money Management Institute. Recognized as one of the primary contributors to the development of the fee-based consulting industry, Jim was honored in 2005 with the Pioneer Award by the Money Management Institute for his contributions to the managed account industry during his illustrious 25-year career.
In June of 2012, Jim retired as CEO of Pershing Managed Account Solutions. That fall, he completed a 3,100-mile, cross-country journey on his bicycle, raising money for the Mike Clark Legacy Foundation in honor of his late, good friend, Mike Clark. The ride raised over $75,000 and began a tradition of cyclists riding across the country raising funds to further improve the facilities at Boys & Girls Clubs in Delaware.
Following his “first retirement”, Jim focused his efforts on bringing young talent into the financial services industry through his position as Senior Partner at Wheelhouse Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. In addition to training college students about the industry, he developed and implemented WheelhouseEd, a training program for employees currently in the financial services industry. Within a few short years, the program has trained close to 3,000 employees and continues to be expanded and enhanced.
In October 2016, Envestnet purchased Wheelhouse Analytics, where Jim served as Managing Director. He was responsible for practice management and educational services through the Envestnet Institute and the Envestnet Institute on Campus. As an important area of focus, these programs are aimed at bringing the eLearning experience that he developed to RIA’s and to college campuses to better prepare the workforce ready and for those students planning to enter the world of wealth management.
Now, in his “second retirement”, Jim is serving as the Chairman of the Board of Advisory Members for the Envestnet Institute On Campus and focusing his efforts towards consultative services and charitable organization’s such as the Warrior Surf Foundation for Veterans and their families.
1. “2019 Modern Wealth Survey,” Charles Schwab, last accessed on July 2, 2020, https://www.aboutschwab.com/modernwealth2019.
2. Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Zamira Rahim, “May 21 coronavirus news,” CNN.com, last modified on May 21, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-05-21-20-intl/h_264c29a5f19359c8d0f8195963f0292c.
3. Kelly Anne Smith, “Survey: Americans Say Safe In-Person College Attendance Should Take Place This Fall,” Forbes.com, last modified on June 9, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/student-loans/survey-americans-say-safe-in-person-college-attendance-should-take-place-this-fall/.
4. Janet Lorin, “The Covid-19 College Gap Year Exposes a Great Economic Divide,” Bloomberg.com, last modified on May 15, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-15/the-covid-19-college-gap-year-exposes-a-great-economic-divide.
The information, analysis and opinions expressed herein are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views of Envestnet. These views reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of writing and are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing contained in this piece is intended to constitute legal, tax, accounting, securities, or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment, nor a solicitation of any type.