The University of Minnesota’s Duluth campus has teamed with JNBA Financial Advisors, a Bloomington-based financial planning firm, to open one of the nation’s first financial planning learning labs for business students.
Opening Wednesday afternoon in downtown Duluth following an inaugural ceremony, the lab will serve as JNBA’s branch office for the city, as well as a resource for UMD students enrolled in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. Students will be able to work with JNBA professionals to acquire real-world financial planning experience, providing a supplement to their classroom studies.
The University Board of Regents recently approved the Duluth campus’s plan to offer a two-year minor degree in financial planning to Labovitz students.
Richard Brown, CEO of JNBA, was behind the decision to expand the company to Duluth. In addition to his role at the head of JNBA, Brown is also a Labovitz instructor and, since last September, a senior fellow. He was instrumental in the development of the curriculum for the new minor.
JNBA will give 40 students the opportunity to use the lab as a resource each year.
Labovitz Dean Kjell Knudsen said the students involved in the program will be required to observe JNBA investment committee meetings.
These students will benefit from professional assistance and have access to the lab’s business software, tools and case studies in order to prepare them for the Certified Financial Planner test and their eventual careers in the financial planning industry.
“This has all been set up in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice in the world of financial planning,” Knudsen said.
In the Twin Cities, the University’s Carlson School of Management does not currently have such a learning lab. According to Brown, there are no plans as of yet to create one.
“Right now, we’re just trying to catch our breath,” Brown said. “However, we hope that labs like this one become a trend for the future.”
They will, according to Knudsen. He said JNBA is in talks with universities around the country regarding the creation of similar learning labs.
Carlson School does not currently offer degrees in financial planning, and spokesman Steve Rudolph said it will not in the near future.
“If there’s anything like that in the works, it’s far down the road.” Rudolph said.
Brown said that Duluth was chosen as the location for the lab because he is a UMD alumnus.
“What this will do for participating students is allow them to be further ahead of the pack when they graduate,” he said.
The Omaha-based online broker service TD Ameritrade Institutional was also involved in the creation of the learning lab, providing a monetary donation to assist building and equipping the learning lab.
The Financial Planning Association has given the JNBA learning lab program its approval. Approval from the organization provides official
certification that the lab meets professional and ethical standards for the financial planning industry.