A six-hour, 170-question exam that covers everything from the underlying principles of financial planning to managing risk to ethics and professional standards of conduct, the Certified Financial Planning Exam is known for its rigor – and notorious for its difficulty. To prepare students to tackle that challenge, Bryant provides a mix of superior academics and invaluable real-world learning.
“So much of this test is about being able to apply everything you’ve learned to real everyday problems,” says Evan Soraci ’19, a Financial Planning Associate on the high net worth team at Ballentine Partners who passed the exam this spring. “Bryant does a great job of helping students gain the knowledge and the experience they need to do that.”
“This is a very respected certification in our industry. It shows your clients that you have the knowledge you need to help them and that you care enough to do the work necessary to obtain it.”
A key to being the best
A key step toward full Certified Financial Planning certification, the CFP exam requires applicants to demonstrate that they are fully prepared to work in the field and advise others. “It’s not enough to just memorize the material,” observes Savanah Miles ’19, who also passed the exam this spring and works as an Investment Consulting Services Associate at Andersen. “You have to really understand what it actually means.”
“This is a very respected certification in our industry,” says Miles. “It shows your clients that you have the knowledge you need to help them and that you care enough to do the work necessary to obtain it.”
“A lot of the people I work with have had to go on and take additional classes after college. ... Bryant lets you take those classes as part of your undergrad curriculum.”
Bryant is one of only a few New England-based schools that offers a CFP registered program to undergraduate students. Upon completion of the financial planning track, Bryant grads are eligible to sit for the CFP exam, which gives them an exceptional competitive advantage when entering the industry.
“A lot of the people I work with have had to go on and take additional classes after college. That’s additional time you have to take, and additional money you have to spend,” says Soraci. “But Bryant lets you take those classes as part of your undergrad curriculum.”
“It's a huge weight off of my shoulders, being able to get it done at such a young age, and not having to worry about studying for it anymore,” he adds. “This is something I've been working toward for four years, so passing the exam feels really good.”
An experiential advantage
Preparation for the exam extends beyond the classroom. “Our program combines excellent academics with an experiential learning component that complements what students learn through their coursework,” says Mara L. Derderian '93, CFP, Finance department lecturer and Financial Planning Program Director. That mix of theory and real-world experience, both Soraci and Miles agree, gave them special insight into the questions posed in the exam.
Mentoring programs, experiential learning opportunities, and a required internship with a financial services organization all provide students with much needed exposure to the field, and help them find career and academic paths they will enjoy and excel in.
“At Bryant, you're not just taking classes, you're completing internships, you're working with faculty on projects, and you’re engaging with your peers, with alumni, and with other professionals.”
“Gaining experience and understanding what it's really like to be in the industry is so important,” says Miles, co-founder of Bryant’s Smart Women in Finance organization, which holds educational events, networking nights, and other opportunities for students to expand their horizons. “At Bryant, you're not just taking classes, you're completing internships, you're working with faculty on projects, and you’re engaging with your peers, with alumni, and with other professionals.”
“A lot of students coming out of college have sat in class and done the normal curriculum, but they don't have that same experience out in the real world,” notes Soraci, who recalls his time as a portfolio manager with Bryant’s student-run Archway Investment Fund and his internship with Ballentine Partners as invaluable. “The opportunities that Bryant gives to its students, opportunities that allow us to get that experience so early on, puts us above and beyond what a lot of other students are getting.”
Dedicated faculty make a difference
The program’s faculty also play a key role in helping students consider their futures. “Professor Derderian definitely helped me get to where I am,” says Soraci. “She does a great job of helping students find different opportunities and she's a great advocate for all her the students.”
“I think one of the things that sets us apart from other universities is that we are helping students figure out their paths."
“The entire Finance department has always been very helpful and I’m really thankful for them,” adds Miles. “No matter who I wanted to talk to, even if I never had a class with them, they were very receptive and happy to talk with me about my career goals.”
“I think one of the things that sets us apart from other universities is that we are helping students figure out their paths,” says Derderian. “We're showing them the areas of study and we show them what those areas are really like. We're able to say, 'If you're interested in financial planning, this is what a CFP does, and this is how they do it.'”
A growing field
The same education that prepared them for the exam helps Miles and Soraci succeed in careers they enjoy. “Bryant really helped prepare me for the industry as well as the examination,” says Miles, who through a Bryant scholarship recently attended the Financial Planning Association’s residency program, where she worked with accomplished finance professionals to hone her skills.
“There's a real need for young, certified financial planners in the world, and especially in this country. This is a growing opportunity where people can really flourish and have a great career.”
“I like working with people, hearing their stories, and learning about what's important to them,” she says. “When you think of finance, you think of numbers, and spreadsheets, and data, and that is part of it. But the other key element of financial advising is working with others and helping them put the pieces together.”
Soraci is excited to be helping others secure their financial futures in a rapidly expanding field. “I got into this field to help others,” he notes. “There's a real need for young, certified financial planners in the world, and especially in this country. This is a growing opportunity where people can really flourish and have a great career.”