Schwab Foundation Learning Center coming to GCU

The 150,000-square-foot Colangelo College of Business Building will add a new hub, the Charles Schwab Foundation Learning Center, this fall.

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Being one step ahead is so important in managing your money.

It’s even more critical when learning how to properly manage someone else’s hard-earned nest egg.

That’s the impetus behind the new Charles Schwab Foundation Learning Center, coming this fall to the Colangelo College of Business (CCOB) Building at Grand Canyon University

Isabella Carrilho

The multiyear grant from Schwab Advisor Services, in partnership with the Charles Schwab Foundation, will help students get one step ahead in all facets of financial services.

It will create a home for finance classes and finance clubs, provide a destination for guest speakers on investing and financial literacy, and help address the critical need for more certified financial planners (CFPs). 

It also will be the site of students’ preparation for the Security Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, a relatively new requirement for financial services professionals that has been part of the CCOB curriculum for two years.

Isabella Carrilho, who graduated with her business administration degree from GCU in April 2020 and now is an Associate Financial Services Professional for Schwab, already has seen what having the SIE in your back pocket can do for your front-and-center credentials.

Thanks to the instruction she received in a CCOB class taught by Mark Jacobson with guest appearances by Schwab representatives, she passed the exam the day before she started her job. Other members of her training class are just starting to study for the exam.

“And we’ve been at Schwab for seven months,” she said. “I’m already fully licensed. It put me at an advantage because I was pushed through my second licensing faster.”

One step ahead.

Kyle Crews is a senior at GCU, on track to graduate in April. He doesn’t know where he’ll be working after he receives his diploma, but he does know one thing: He already has passed the SIE – he did so in December.

Kyle Crews

He, too, took the SIE class. He, too, benefited.

“He (Jacobson) did a great job of taking what we were learning in the class and the textbook and applying it to what we would see on the Security Industry Essentials exam,” Crews said.

Like Carrilho, he has met with Jacobson numerous times to obtain contact lists and references. Back in high school, Crews thought he wanted to become an athletic trainer, but now he’s excited about becoming a financial advisor, just like his father. And he knows where he got a leg up.

“Everyone in the Finance Department and in the College of Business in general really pushes for students to be proactive and take advantage and connections they have now for internships or jobs moving forward,” he said.

One step ahead.

“We have partnered with Charles Schwab for nearly four years. This Charles Schwab Foundation gift is a validation of the work Mark Jacobson has done, and, in turn, our amazing students have taken advantage of the access and opportunity Charles Schwab has provided,” CCOB Dean Dr. Randy Gibb said, adding that the center will be made available to employees and the community as well.

Dr. Randy Gibb

“Financial literacy is crucial to learn at all ages and to help in the responsible management to impact a family’s generations.”   

Jacobson is determined to fill that need. He was in the financial services industry for 35 years before he came to GCU in 2015. He knew that the industry needed to rebound with new approaches and new blood after the financial crisis of 2008, and he also knew that the transfusion would come from college graduates properly trained and inspired.

“I recognized that higher ed needed to evolve in a partnership with industry. It can’t be siloed,” he said.

Jacobson sees an important quality in his students: a focus on helping people, not just making money.

“The typical GCU student, it’s all about giving back and making a difference in the world,” he said. “I keep talking about that in my classes: ‘You guys, what a great gift, to teach personal finance to somebody and help them get out from underneath a pile of debt, no savings for retirement, or whatever the financial issue is.’”

Said Gibb, “Our students have a heart to serve, so it only makes sense to give them this opportunity to help others with financial planning.”

Soon after his arrival on campus, Jacobson started building a network of local industry experts. When the SIE was instituted in October 2018 as a requirement for qualifying as a representative, he implemented a pilot program to prepare students for the pass-fail exam and made it part of his degree path.

He estimates that 200 students have taken the class. CCOB was one of the first college business programs to pivot and align with an industry partner regarding the SIE. 

Mark Jacobson

“It’s good for the industry, and it’s good for Schwab because they get access to my class,” he said. “They’re in my class eight times a semester – they also co-teach. Schwab mentors and instructs students. They’ve now started to build a pipeline of hires out of my class.”

That led to talks with Schwab to grow the program even more, and that, in turn, led to the advent of the new Schwab financial center. It will be a place for students to learn about finance, financial planning, the stock market, and other topics from the financial world. Students will be able to monitor the markets and the business news. “They will have many of the tools from the financial world,” Jacobson said.

The need for certified financial planners certainly is there. CNBC reported in 2019 that only 1% of Americans have a CFP and that 75% try to manage their money themselves. On top of that, there is a shortage of CFPs as millennials start to save and baby boomers retire.

“The pandemic showed that many people struggle with money and money management,” Jacobson said. “A couple of months into it, people who had lost jobs couldn’t pay their rent or feed their families. They had no savings.

“There’s been a big push by firms, large and small, in the wealth-management world to add certified financial planners. Schwab, as an industry leader, has a vested interest in growing the number of CFPs.”

Maybe that unwillingness of Americans to turn over their finances to a CFP is simply a matter of understanding what CFPs do and how they’re compensated (either by a set fee or, for wealthier individuals, a percentage of assets).

“A certified financial planner helps by building a financial plan for you,” Jacobson said. “They help you meet your financial goals by looking at your entire financial picture. It’s everything, from your home to insurance to estate planning. It’s comprehensive. With that they can help you get to your goals – put my kids through college, retire at 60, whatever.”

The trust required for that kind of input starts with the SIE. Crews, who plays on the lacrosse team at GCU, already understands why the SIE is such an important goal.

“If I’m going to be managing your money, I think the No. 1 thing would be trust – and that’s a fragile thing,” he said. “It’s something hard to build, but starting out in the business world, the SIE gives you some credibility that, ‘Hey, I put in the work, I have an idea of the basics of these things, and I’m able to help you out to the best of my ability, and if it’s something I don’t know I’m going to ask other people and I’m going to find out for you.’”

Carrilho is working in the industry, and she’s already seeing that spirit.

“My goal is to be a financial advisor one day. I just want to help people, and I feel like that’s a trend with people who work at Schwab,” she said. “They’re just into helping others. I even feel that support from my co-workers. They always say it’s ‘one Schwab.’ I think people can tell when you’re in it for the right reasons.

“The demographics of finance are changing. There are a lot of young investors, especially with these online platforms. I’ve been talking to more young people on the phone now, which is really good. Sometimes people think the stock market is intimidating and think only experienced people should be in it. The younger you are when you learn, the better you can use your money and have your money work for you.”

Carrilho knows all about intimidating new experiences. She moved from her native Brazil to Minnesota when she was 15 (“I always compare it to the movie ‘Rio,’ but in reverse”) and was thrust into one of that state’s worst winters in years.

At first, she didn’t think it was so bad – seeing snow was fun, and she wasn’t driving yet. “But then the next year when I had to drive, I was like, ‘I actually hate the snow,’” she said.

When she heard that a number of students at her high school were going to GCU, she followed their footsteps out of the white stuff. Look at where it has taken her – now she’s helping set a path for GCU students to the financial world with the help of people like Jacobson.

“The big firms have huge hiring needs,” he said. “I tell my students, ‘Get in now. You’re going to be given so many opportunities. If you’re a hard worker and want to make a difference, you can get ahead very quickly if you get in at the right time, and the time is now.’”

But they first have to pass the SIE. The Learning Center will help them start that journey … and get one step ahead.

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


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