New Fox major stresses people skills

Cindy Axelrod (left) and Donald Kirkwood stand with Tom Nally, President of TD Ameritrade Institutional, at the New York Stock Exchange, where they represented Temple University for an event in recognizing future financial planners. | COURTESY TD Ameritrade Institutional

The new financial planning undergraduate major being introduced this fall semester at the Fox School of Business isn’t all about crunching numbers – it’s about people skills as well.

As a growing field bearing the same name in the business and finance industry, the financial planning degree program will prepare students with strong investment skills and what Cindy Axelrod, the program director, calls “strong emotional intelligence, or EQ.”

“[Financial planning] is the holistic approach to investing for your clients,” Axelrod said. “It’s really taking care of, not only the investment part, but the tax part and getting to know what your clients’ needs are and how they change and how you need to reposition things accordingly.”

The major comes at a time when financial planning education is being supported nationally by companies like TD Ameritrade Institutional, which awarded a $25,000 grant to Temple at Wall Street on July 22 to help develop the new program. The grant was one part of the company’s efforts in supporting future financial planners through its third annual Next Gen Financial Planning grants and scholarships.

In addition to funding scholarships for students going into the program, the grant will also go into creating a speaker series that would invite Philadelphia’s financial planning professionals to engage with students and create networking opportunities.

“Networking is a very important part of what every college student should do and this gives them the opportunity to network with people who are basically doing what they want to do when they graduate – it’s a mission-critical skill to have,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod believes that students who major in financial planning will have great opportunities because of certain factors, like the retirement of baby boomers and firm leaders within the financial planning field retiring, all pointing to there being a huge need for financial planners over the years.

Donald Kirkwood, assistant dean for development and alumni affairs at Fox, who helped apply for the grant and represent Temple with Axelrod in New York, said that the Fox School’s strong reputation and potential made it a suitable candidate for the grant.

“We are one of the largest business schools in the country,” Kirkwood said. “So we have a great impact on the region, and when there is an opportunity to impact business and give students jobs, we want to capitalize on that.”

Also, what differentiates Fox’s financial planning program with others, Axelrod said, is that it is interdisciplinary within the school. This means that students can learn from professors in a variety of fields pertaining to the major, including investment management, estate and tax planning, communication and investor psychology.

“We have the expertise within the business school to launch this program,” she said. “The strength of Fox is that we have very highly qualified professors and that enables us to have this program with its feet on the ground very quickly.”

Even Temple alumni within the industry like Roy Diliberto, the founder and chairman of RTD Financial Advisors, Inc., has shown his support with a $100,000 gift given last year to create endowment scholarships for financial planning students.

With Axelrod herself having 25 years of experience in the money management community, as well as being director of the Owl Fund and faculty adviser for the Temple University Investment Association, she said she feels ready to start.

“I’m honored to be appointed the director of the program – I’m excited about it,” she said.

Albert Hong can be reached at albert.hong@temple.edu. 

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