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The Learning Never Stops

Andrew Stewart, CFA
Nov 19, 2019

Continuing Education

The word education often brings to mind memories of high school and college, or perhaps a professional degree, such as medical or law school. For me, my time in graduate school at Boston College studying finance from 2008 to 2009 comes to mind. This is a bit of an understatement, but that was an interesting time to study capital markets!

Our office is in a college town: Ann Arbor, Michigan. Folks around here talk about the school quite a bit. Conversation often revolves around some type of sportsball, especially here at Exchange Capital where we have staff from both sides of a particular Michigan rivalry. While it’s fun that we have a diversity of alma maters, I like to point out that we also have a range of topical study in our history.

A diverse group, indeed! In our office, though, we don't speak much about what we learned long ago, and talk all the time about what we are learning now. This is because our industry is always evolving:

  • Markets are constantly moving and the facts of the subject change
  • New market tools are being invented every day, some helpful, others not
  • We learn more about the human condition, which is a significant driver of markets
  • Human behavior changes with new knowledge about all these things

There is always something to learn! As a group, we read a lot, watch seminars, bounce ideas off our peers, write blogs like these, take questions from clients and reporters, research answers, and on, and on.

Some of our learning leans on third-party accreditation organizations to focus on particular areas of investing and financial planning. We believe that the investment educational leadership of the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute and the financial planning educational leadership of the Certified Financial Planner Board are particularly important for professionals early in their careers.

In fact, we are celebrating this year as Olivia earned her CFA charter and Joe earned his CFP® certificate! They each engaged in hundreds of hours of study over the course of years, confirmed with hours of testing before they earned the right to use these cryptic letters after their names. We are very proud of them both, and encourage others in our firm to follow in their footsteps.

It doesn’t stop there. Everyone in our office regularly engages in continuing education of one type or another. This year alone:

  • A group of us went to a conference to learn about recent trends in financial planning, asset management, industry technology, and get updates from various vendors that we use in our business
  • I recently completed a two-year-long professional development program that focuses on the operational and people management of businesses like ours
  • Joe goes to regular meetings with a group here in Washtenaw County that focuses on keeping up-to-date on estate, tax, and financial planning topics
  • We are all going through a training program, led by Julia and Danny in Marketing, that focuses on educating and delighting our customers
  • I went to a conference that focused on alternative investments to stay up to date on developments in that corner of our industry
  • I regularly go to events hosted by the CFA Society Detroit, often joined by Matt and other colleagues
  • Olivia has become active in the CFA Society Minnesota since she moved to Minneapolis, going to their events and joining their Toastmasters group
  • Everyone in our office engages in regular online training about cyber security and compliance
  • Joe is involved in both the Financial Planning Association and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
  • Olivia and I went to a conference this month to speak in person with independent stock analysts whose research we regularly read
  • Matt is a CFA Level II Candidate, and therefore is the most miserable person in the office, as he studies for what is considered by many to be the hardest of the three CFA exams

Most of this doesn't lead to more letters at the ends of our names, but these efforts are invaluable for our ongoing pursuit of excellence in our field.

We should always remember to celebrate the achievement of attaining new knowledge, both large and small. Some achievements are large enough that they should be memorialized. So, while you MSU fans might remember with glee the football game in October 2017, where your team managed an upset victory over UofM, my alma mater was gaining another Nobel Prize winning alum that weekend for his work in Behavioral Economics. Just sayin’.

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Andrew Stewart, CFA, CAIA is Chief Investment Strategist at Exchange Capital Management, a fee-only, fiduciary financial planning firm.  The opinions expressed in this article are his own.