“Industry research uncovered that nearly half of financial advisors are either at or approaching retirement over the coming decade. More than 200,000 new financial professionals are needed to replace these retiring financial advisors, financial analysts, and wealth managers, to take over their clients and retainers,” quotes Texas A&M law professor William Byrnes from an industry report. William Byrnes is a pioneer of online legal education and one of America’s most influential wealth planning and tax authors, with his books selling 25,000 print copies annually with like amount of online readers. This month, Finance Monthly had the privilege to speak with him about initiating Wealth Management program at Texas A&M University School of Law.
Why did you initiate a wealth management graduate program?
Discussions with large financial institutions, Big 4 accounting partners, and AmLaw 250 attorneys led me to understand why they are not finding qualified graduates for management positions. Hiring partners have disclosed to me that the wealth industry does not need adversarial or controversy skills and that it does not find the ability to read appellate decisions particularly helpful for wealth advisory. Firms are seeking future leaders that demonstrate in the recruitment process practice ready skills, such as team collaboration to design and present innovative client solutions, a holistic approach to client advisory drawing upon many areas of research, such as industry, market, and legal, soft skills to develop and manage cradle-to-grave client relationships, ethics and judgement in addressing compliance and risk. Also, hiring partners are seeking employees with the ability to communicate in written form for clients and boards. I heard several comments about associates not being able to write well and requiring substantial non-billable time to fix mistakes.
What makes Texas A&M the right institution for this wealth management graduate program?
When Texas A&M University’s new law school approached me, I decided it was the right institution to solve the wealth industry’s skills expectation gap! Texas A&M University is ranked #4 among the elite public universities by Money Magazine, #4 among all elite universities by Washington Monthly, and #4 by US News for best value among national public universities. Sure, rankings are an important indication of quality.
But what really attracted me to Texas A&M is its focus on innovation. As Ernest & Young concluded after its Tax Insights magazine interview: ‘The State of Texas not only established a new law school at the university but also gave it carte blanche to create a new education model’. EY also found that ‘Texas A&M University is among the pioneers of change in tax education’ and tax considerations are a key factor in wealth management. Texas A&M is not living on its past accomplishments, Texas A&M innovates and instills the ability to innovate in its faculty and graduates.
What more can you tell us about the program?
Designed to build expertise for both lawyers and non-lawyers, the wealth management program takes a deep dive into the legal aspects of finance, regulation, risk, and compliance. Lawyers and non-lawyers immerse together with a deep dive into the intricacies of managing wealth and risk. After an extensive RFP process, we partnered with Ken Randall of iLaw, BarBri’s newly acquired academic developer partner group for two primary reasons. First, Ken served twenty years as Dean of Alabama, taking it to the 1st tier and maintaining 1st tier status partly by offering high-quality online education throughout the United States. Second, Ken has assembled an industry-leading executive team that offers flexibility, scalability, and cross pollination for the highest quality program development.
Courses have been designed in an asynchronous online format, allowing students to participate in multimedia enabled lectures and learning experiences on their own schedule, providing flexibility for the industry professional who must juggle clients, family, and academic obligations.
But our asynchronous format is neither talking head nor Netflix binge-watching. Each course’s development team strives to deliver an integrated learning experience and includes a Texas A&M subject matter expert partnered with an iLaw multimedia specialist and instructional designer. We’ve combined this state-of-the-art design with live online group interactions and campus events such as the annual financial planning career conference with its awards banquet and two days of financial institution career presentations. In addition, we seek monthly feedback from our pilot class to calibrate the courses and improve the program experience.
What is the profile of Texas A&M Law’s graduate wealth students?
The pilot cohort of 30 professionals is split evenly between lawyers and non-lawyer, each with a median professional experience of approximately 10 years, which is manageable for testing our courses and the back office administrative and tech support in a large public university environment with nearly 70,000 students. This coming year we will expand our diversity to include international professionals and gauge the effectiveness of our 24/7 support systems across global time zones and cultural variances. I envision selecting up to 60 diversely qualified candidates annually to maintain the prestige of this Aggie degree.
Texas A&M University School of Law launched its revolutionary online graduate curricula in Wealth Management and Risk Management in 2017. More information may be found at law.tamu.edu/distance-education/wealth-management