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Auburn’s internationally recognized Financial Management Association leadership combines with the Auburn Student Investment Fund to create an unmatched professional development experience.
The combination of academic excellence and hands-on, practical application of classroom learning defines the uniquely successful Integrated Financial Leadership Program (IFLP) at Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business. Rooted in the founding vision and belief that Auburn students should be provided the tools, training and experiences necessary to pursue highly challenging career paths in the financial services industry, IFLP is turning heads as Auburn finance graduates who participate in this rigorous program gain entry into some of the most elite career paths in investment banking worldwide.
The IFLP is the result of a conscious decision two years ago to combine Auburn’s extremely successful Financial Management Association (FMA) chapter and the Auburn Student Investment Fund (ASIF) under one umbrella that now includes not only career preparation and technical training, but also brings practical experience to the classroom by encouraging industry experts to visit with our students and serve as guest lecturers.
Research shows the Integrated Financial Leadership Program opens many doors for internships and full-time opportunities for current and graduating students.
The Harbert College of Business recently sat down with Tracy Richard, Director of the Integrated Financial Leadership Program, following the fourth annual FMA Financial Leadership Summit held October 8–9 to find out more about what makes the IFLP such a sought-after program for some of the very best students across the Auburn campus.
HCOB: Let’s start with some hard numbers—that’s how the finance industry measures success, so let’s apply that here. Can you give us a sense of the results achieved by IFLP members in securing that all-import first job upon graduation?
Richard: Absolutely. For the sixth year in a row, we posted 100% full time placement for our 22 graduating seniors and 100% internship placement for our 24 juniors. The average starting compensation for the 2021 graduating class was $116,000.
HCOB: That’s impressive, can you dive a little deeper into some of the other impacts of the IFLP on the students themselves—what they gain beyond prominent first positions and starting salaries? What makes them so extraordinary?
Richard: Our students are dedicated, highly capable, inquiring problem-solvers who are just as qualified for top positions at leading banks as they are for admission to elite Ivy League graduate programs. We’ve graduated six years of intellectually adventurous individuals who ask critical questions, challenge assumptions, create solutions and leave an indelible stamp not only on the companies they join but also in terms of the reputation they help build for Auburn in the financial services industry. They serve as powerful examples of what we’re all about here at Harbert.
Left to Right: Nick Thompson, Kennedy Jarvis and Sam Colvin scored the Auburn Financial Management Association's second-consecutive national championship at the Duff & Phelps YOUniversity Deal Challenge case competition.
When it comes to FMA itself, our students can clearly compete with students from other elite finance focused schools. Case in point, Auburn’s FMA teams recently won back-to-back first place national case competition honors in the rigorous Duff & Phelps YOUniversity Deal Challenge, and this year came out on top in the international competition. I couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments in the face of such stiff competition.
HCOB: There is an expanded curriculum component to the IFLP as well, right? You’ve actually added requirements for graduation that combine new coursework and active group participation. Can you tell us a bit about all that?
Richard: Yes, we now have three IFLP-specific courses: a practical application course that is taught by a Training the Street executive, a security analysis course taught by an executive at Retirement Systems of Alabama and an advanced Portfolio Management class taught by our own Dr. Albert Wang. These classes bridge the gap between academia and the real world by teaching the practical skills needed to optimally succeed on the job.
HCOB: Let’s turn to this year’s FMA Summit, in particular the Panel Discussion, which was moderated by Steven Aldridge from Cantor Fitzgerald—a 2007 Harbert Finance Graduate—and featured Elise L. Jordan, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer at FedEx Express, Tavis McCourt, Institutional Equity Strategist at Raymond James, and Gizman Abbas, Principal at Direct Invest Development. What can you share about that?
Left to Right: Tavis McCourt, Elise L. Jordan and Gizman Abbas.
Richard: To begin with, that’s an amazing group of experienced financial industry executives from top-tier, world-class organizations, and we are honored to have them donate their time, energy and insight to our Summit. The panel was not only experienced, but also diverse in that expertise. Tavis was able to add insight to current market drivers; while Elise gave the students an inside look at how these drivers are impacting business and strategy at a Fortune 100 company. Gizman has experience across a spectrum of industries and investments, but his defining message was “Where you are from never dictates where you will go.” Students were able to take a lot of hard-won experiential advice away with them.
In addition to the panel discussion, we also hosted three break-out rooms during the Summit. Alumnus AJ Stanley from EY held a session on consulting, while Jim Dorman, alumnus now working for SouthernSun, spoke about asset management. In addition, this year we included an ASIF pitch in our programming, which allowed for an interchange between our students and visiting executives, where students were tasked with determining the potential value of a proposed ASIF investment—the students chose PayPal. The exchange between the students and the executives and alumni exemplifies the value of combining theoretical learning with the practical implications of an actual stock pick.
HCOB: This year’s FMA Summit named the FMA Student Leader of the Year for 2020-2021 and also honored one of the original backers of FMA at Auburn. Tell us about that.
Richard: Our FMA Student Leader of the Year for 2021 was 2020-2021 FMA President Price Delk, who is now working with Goldman Sachs in New York City. His leadership helped carry us through some tough times, and the organization definitely benefited from his hard work. There was rarely a day when Price wasn’t busy with mock interviews, strategic planning or candidate preparation. We all miss him.
When it comes to support for FMA from our partners in the financial services industry, no organization stands out more prominently than Regions Bank. We’ve enjoyed a special relationship with Regions since our inception. When we were first getting started, Regions Securities was also growing their presence and trying to establish an official internship program, and Tim Monte from Regions worked with us to place some of our top students. Ward Cheatham, Regions EVP and an Auburn graduate, committed to hiring Auburn finance talent as well.
That dedicated support from Regions continues to this day, with the bank recently committing $50,000 to the Financial Leadership Collaborative in support of the new finance lab facilities. Construction on the lab is expected to start December 2021.
HCOB: As we wrap this up, what can you tell us about the future of Auburn’s Integrated Financial Leadership Program?
Richard: As we look to the future of the program, I am happy to say that future is very bright. We will continue to work hard to secure the resources we need to support our students. We will reflect on the success of our program to date, explore ways to improve and expand it and—importantly—work to raise the visibility of HCOB’s finance program in the process.