Panelists bullish on future of financial services

November 21, 2019 / by / 0 Comment

The financial services industry panel (from left): Charles McLean of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Norman Butler of Bank of America, Ian Muir of Charles Schwab and John Carbone of The Vanguard Group.

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

A panel of financial services experts shared their views of the industry’s future Wednesday night with a lecture hall full of Grand Canyon University business students, and it can best be summed up thusly: Like the rest of the world, it’s changing fast.

Long gone are the horrors of 2008, when banks took a bath and homeowners suffered through a shower of foreclosures. Now the talk is all about speedy customer service, artificial intelligence, financial education … and jobs.

“The industry has healed up from 2008,” said Mark Jacobson, a Colangelo College of Business (CCOB) instructor who used to work at Bank of America. “They’re all hiring – it’s probably one of the biggest growth areas in the Valley. We’re trying to encourage students to look at that as a career path.”

As part of Money Week, which seems to further financial education among students, CCOB brought in four professionals who could talk in detail about that career path:

  • Charles McLean, General Manager, Arizona Operations, and Designated Broker at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services
  • Norman Butler, Market Executive and Senior Vice President, Bank of America
  • Ian Muir, Senior Vice President of Advisor Services, Trading and Operations, Charles Schwab
  • John Carbone, Principal and Portfolio Manager, The Vanguard Group

One of the first questions for the panel was about a topic that is front and center in the minds of everyone in the job market: What will be the effect of artificial intelligence, and what jobs will be eliminated?

The result, the panelists agreed, is that it is pointing the industry toward an emphasis on relationships.

Charitable financial literacy sessions have become part of their routine, and Carbone labeled financial advice as a growing part of the industry. Muir stressed the need to incorporate financial planning and budgeting into their repertoire as something akin to a “financial Fitbit.”

“It may not be a technology answer,” Butler said. “It may be more of a relationship skill set.”

Building those relationships will be critical when it comes to financial literacy. Carbone said one of his major concerns about the financial world is the number of consumers who are getting into extreme debt, even post-2008, and the panelists agreed that they need to educate the public about how to save money.

“Personal debt is going to be big for us,” Muir said. “Credit card debt is one of the key issues all over the world.”

Two other key issues are advancements that have been forecast for several years: quantum computing and blockchain technology.

All four cautioned against expecting their operations to be moved over to quantum computing, which can do more faster, anytime soon. “It’s like trying to change a flat tire while still driving,” Carbone said.

Blockchain, defined as a time-stamped series of immutable records of data managed by a cluster of computers not owned by any single entity, already is being incorporated by financial institutions, but with some caution.

Muir said it’s like going into a hardware store and seeing the fanciest tools on the wall – he’s not going to buy any of them without fully understanding how they work.

The forum concluded with an interesting question: Is this an exciting time for you? The answers again were cautious but with a dose of optimism.

“I don’t see the same risk we saw in ’08,” Butler said. “I wouldn’t bet against the U.S. economy compared to other economies in the world. We’re seeing more investing in businesses than three years ago, but it’s a slow growth.”

Muir said there was more predictability when he entered the industry 40 years ago. Now, the financial climate is governed by this type of reality: “What if you were the largest taxi company in town the day Uber started?” he said.

The conversation was designed to build on what students hear in their CCOB classes regularly.

“We talk about the future. We talk about things like blockchain, where the jobs are at, what is the direction of the industry,” Jacobson said. “They get it from me, and this supplements where to go.

“We had our job fair today, and all these companies were represented at that. We also have integrated programs with some of these companies. What we’ve found is, the more they see and talk to these companies, the more likely they are to be considering this career path and knowing what they’re getting into.”

It all starts with understanding personal finances, which is the emphasis during Money Week.

“We’re trying to help people be more savvy with their finances in college, which will set them up for the rest of their life,” said Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean.

And that will make them better investors … and better financial industry employees.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

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