Due to pent-up demand for certified financial planners, the recent Texas A&M Financial Planning Career and Education Conference had to cap the number of registered employers interviewing prospective Texas A&M students.

Two men, one facing forward, Nathan Harness, Ph.D., shake hands at the financial planning conference with booths behind them.
Nathan Harness, Ph.D., director of financial planning in the Department of Agricultural Economics in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, networks at the Texas A&M Financial Planning Career and Education Conference. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Michael Miller)

“We are seeing huge demand for financial planners as there has been considerable growth among companies throughout the industry,” said Nathan Harness, Ph.D., director of financial planning in the Department of Agricultural Economics in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The industry is desperate for talent. People need sound, professional advice and that has led to where we are today.”

The conference and career fair is now in its 13th year. It featured a student presentation showcase designed to assist students with developing their presentation skills. Students presented a 12-minute summary of a financial planning case study to audience members. Another session included former students, industry professionals and experts sharing insightful messages with the audience.

Early eye for growing demand

The Texas A&M financial planning program got its start thanks to Bill Carter ‘69 of Carter Financial Management. Carter, and his wife, Fran, have established a $5 million planned gift, to support the program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“I want this program to be one of national prominence and the most recognized in the country,” Carter said. “I wanted to give back to Texas A&M and give back to my community. My career has been built in financial planning and helping make a difference in people’s lives.”

Carter has held several prominent industry professional positions. He has served as chairman of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and president of the International Association for Financial Planning. He also served on the board with the Institute of Certified Financial Planners and has chaired the Foundation for Financial Planning.

Attendees walking around on the floor visiting booths at the Financial Planning Career Fair.
The Financial Planning career fair was held at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center in College Station. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Michael Miller)

More than a decade ago, Carter worked with Gene Nelson, Ph.D., and John Nichols, Ph.D., both professor emeritus of agricultural economics, to explore the potential for teaching financial planning at Texas A&M.

For Carter, developing the program became a passion and a tribute to both the university and his profession. Since its beginning, the program has prepared Texas A&M students for career opportunities and provided outstanding candidates for the financial planning industry.

“Financial planning is my life,” Carter said. “I’m a few weeks away from my 50th year in the business. I’ve seen the benefits of being a financial planner and what it brings to people. At the end of the day, it’s a place to make a good living and more  importantly for me, it’s making a difference in people’s lives. Having this (financial planning program) at Texas A&M is icing on the cake.”

The program is currently offered as a minor for undergraduates. Students who successfully complete all coursework requirements are eligible to sit for the Certified Financial Planner Exam. Future plans are to make the program offered as a major in the Department of Agricultural Economics. For professionals, an extended learning certificate program is offered for those wanting to become a certified financial planner.

Trends, bright future for the financial planning industry

Harness said among the growth trends is a shift from defined benefit or pension plans to defined contribution or 401k plans where individuals now have control on where these investments are placed.

Demand from individuals wanting sound retirement investment advice as well as other future investment needs is surging, especially for an industry that sees the average age of a certified financial planner between 58-60, Harness noted.

Current hiring trends include lack of labor force and creating a hybrid work environment while maintaining client relationships. There are currently 150 students in the Texas A&M program and growing.

“We’ve seen about 30% growth on average per year,” Harness said. “We also have a certificate program that continues to grow. We’ve seen individuals looking for second careers that find financial planning very appealing. We’ve had pilots, doctors, Ph.D. graduates and others. We even had one engineer who had people coming to him always asking for investment ideas and he decided it would be a good second career to pursue through our certificate program.”

Employers continue to look to Texas A&M students to fill the labor force.

“Our pitch to students is if you have a passion for helping people, you will find wealth that never disappoints,” Harness said.

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