Babson’s brilliant financial course

I was privileged earlier this week to be a guest lecturer in Professor Erik Sirri’s class at the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College. Professor Sirri is unique, to my knowledge, in offering a course called Personal Financial Management for first-year MBAs at top schools.  Wow, do I wish that course were offered back in the day at Columbia! Here’s why…

I’m a fan

First, I must disclose that I am a big fan of Babson. Back when I did a lot of MBA hiring for Wall Street banks, the Babson candidates always stood out. Yes, they were smart, motivated, and ambitious like all the other candidates. What set them apart was their practical, real-world sense. They just seemed more “with it” and well prepared to make good, reasoned decisions. Perhaps it’s Babson’s entrepreneurial emphasis, having captured the #1 ranking in entrepreneurship for 18 straight years.

I also taught at Babson briefly as an adjunct professor in the graduate business school, covering capital markets. That was both a lot of fun and extremely challenging. It increased my respect for the professors there tremendously. Teaching is far harder than it looks.

Anyway, I like Babson, have recommended it to students, and have written letters of recommendation for applicants. Babson just named a new Chairman of the Board, Joe Winn, and its future looks bright.

Every MBA should take this course

Professor Sirri’s course description begins: “Business professionals, while skilled in their area of professional expertise, often lack the skills to negotiate the retail financial landscape, including management of their own personal finances. The knowledge gap is serious because financial decisions about savings and investment made early in one’s career can have a substantial effect on wealth and risk in later years.”

In a word: Amen!

Making the connection between core financial theories and one’s own personal financial planning and investment is a challenge that many smart graduates from great programs struggle with. In my own career I’ve known not just entrepreneurs but many financial professionals at top firms who consistently made terrible decisions with their own finances and investments, especially in the area of managing risk.

Professor Sirri has hit the nail on the head with this course, connecting the dots between theory and practice, with emphasis on the real-world personal finance issues graduates will face in their own lives. By organizing the course around key personal finance topics, he gets students thinking about their own situations and priorities, not just the theories that may be on the final exam.  What better way to start using an MBA than with this course, and with yourself as the example!

Thanks for having me

I was impressed with the students in this class. They asked smart questions and showed insights that will serve them well as they build their own personal empires.

We talked for a bit about how to build a net worth of $5 million by retirement. Most of the class felt that $10 million was a much better goal. I like the way they think.

My thanks to Professor Sirri for the opportunity to be part of this superlative course.  I think he is on to something big.



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