To provide students with the best return on their investment, the finance and general business (FGB) department focuses on staying up to date with ever-changing industry demands.
The FGB Advisory Board, comprised of industry professionals, provides an inside look into industry changes. Their recommendations are the foundation of recent curriculum changes, with the goal of increasing FGB students’ communication skills.
“Since finance is primarily quantitative in nature, it can be easy to overlook the enhancement of soft skills,” said Dr. Jeff Jones, department head.
The department now incorporates soft skills classes such as professional selling, communication, or negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, into its insurance and financial planning programs to help prepare students for client-facing positions.
Since the curriculum changes, which went into effect in fall 2019, the financial planning option has seen a surge of incoming students. After two years, the number of students in the program doubled from approximately 60 students to more than 120.
“We’re trying to create a more well-rounded graduate, particularly in those client-facing type roles,” Jones said.
Financial advisors fall into that category. While quantitative skills are important, financial advisors require strong interpersonal skills.
“How do you make the clients feel? How can you gain trust? And the same is true in the insurance industry,” Jones said.
While the additional soft skills classes are enhancing students’ interpersonal skills within the financial planning program, the department is also shifting focus to other areas, such as FinTech.
FinTech is the integration of digital technology into the financial industry. Many say it might completely disrupt the traditional financial services, banking or insurance model. There is no doubt technology will be a larger component of traditional finance positions in the future.
“The challenge that we will likely tackle in the next year will be rolling out a new finance option in the FinTech space,” Jones said.
This will involve a collaboration with the information technology and cybersecurity department.
Online degree options
The FGB department has three different undergraduate degree programs: finance, general business, and risk management and insurance.
The first two majors, finance and general business, are available online. The pandemic increased the demand for online classes, and Jones is interested to see how the demand for online courses changes in the next few years.
“Does demand stay elevated, or does it return to a more normal level? We try to be responsive and give students their preferred modality,” Jones said.
The insurance track of the risk management and insurance major will most likely be the next online option.
The FGB department makes individual student growth and personal achievement a priority. The faculty do this by engaging with students, connecting with employers, promoting professional designations and offering experiential learning opportunities such as internships.
“We recently made changes to all of our programs to allow students to count an internship towards completion of their degree,” Jones said. “Through my interaction with employers, I am able to get a sense of where the jobs are, and then help students find their way into academic programs that prepare them for these in-demand careers.”
Jones believes finding a balance within your career is essential for personal success.
“You can do what you like, or you can do what’s profitable,” he said. “What you want to do is try to find the career path that ends up with you doing both of those things.”