Edward Jones sponsors college-credit course to prep students for Series 7 exam

Course will be offered to financial and nonfinancial majors to offer them a taste of the advice profession

Aug 18, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Starting this fall, some college students will be able to study for the primary securities licensing exam while they're still in school — a sneak peek that one firm hopes will spark their interest in becoming financial advisers.

Kansas State University will offer a course for credit that prepares students for the Series 7 examination, a license required by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc., the industry-funded broker-dealer regulator. Next spring, Maryville University in suburban St. Louis also will offer the course.

Both the Kansas State and Maryville courses are being sponsored by the financial services company Edward Jones, which will fund the $5,000 cost of adding the course to each school's curriculum. The course materials will be provided by Securities Training Corp.

Edward Jones is undertaking the initiative in order to build the next generation of financial advisers, according to Matt Doran, an Edward Jones principal in charge of the firm's Financial Advisor Career Development Program.

A study by Cerulli Associates Inc. this year projects that 237,000 new financial advisers will be required over the next decade to keep pace with financial planning demand from retiring baby boomers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 60,300 new financial advisers will enter the field over the same time.

“The need is growing and the number of advisers is shrinking,” Mr. Doran said. “We hope [the Series 7 course] benefits the whole industry.”

The goal of offering the course is to give students a preview of what the work of a financial adviser entails. The courses will be open to students beyond those in financial planning programs at the participating schools.

“It will give students in other majors a chance to explore a financial services career through this foundational course,” Mr. Doran said. “If we can engage with students earlier in their academic career, they'll make a much more informed choice and we'll get them off to a better start.”

Sonya Britt, associate professor of personal finance at Kansas State, agrees the Series 7 course will give students a preview of job demands and a running start when they join a firm.

“We don't train to the exam, so we wanted them to have better exposure to what the field expects from them after graduation,” Ms. Britt said. “The employer can spend less time waiting for their employees, who can just start working.”

Maryville established the Series 7 course in response to demand from the growing financial services sector in St. Louis, which includes Edward Jones, Wells Fargo, Scottrade, Stifel Financial Advisors and J.P. Morgan, according to Melissa Griswold, associate professor of finance.

The firms generally pay new hires to study at home for six weeks for the Series 7 exam, which has a high failure rate. The class that Maryville will offer gives the students a chance to take practice exams and put their scores on their resumes.

“We feel like it will give our students a competitive advantage because they'll be ready to sit for the Series 7 exam right out of college,” Ms. Griswold said.

In order to sit for a Series 7 exam, a person still will need to be sponsored by a financial firm. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, for instance, requires its newly hired advisers to sit for the Series 7 within the first four months of coming on board.

Edward Jones is trying to establish the Series 7 course at 10 schools. It is in talks with several colleges, but Mr. Doran would not reveal their names. Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., also will offer a Series 7 course this fall, but not with Edward Jones' sponsorship.

The Edward Jones-targeted schools include those that offer financial planning programs registered with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc., which sponsors 372 programs at 227 colleges and universities.

Mr. Doran said CFP certification is an important credential but the Series 7 has more immediate impact on a new hire's career.

“You don't need [a CFP] to be in the industry, but you do need a Series 7,” Mr. Doran said.

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