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Released Februrary 20, 2004

By Angela Cutrer

HATTIESBURG - The University of Southern Mississippi's finance emphasis in personal financial planning has received official three-year certification from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

Students completing the financial planning program at Southern Miss will now be eligible to sit for the national CFP Certification Examination administered by the CFP Board, an independent certifying organization that awards the CFP, Certified Financial Planner marks.

"CFP Board is pleased to have a respected educational institution such as The University of Southern Mississippi now offering (our) registered financial planning curriculum," said Kathryn Ioannides, CFP and the CFP Board's director of education and examination. "We believe Southern Miss' program will help many dedicated students pursue a rewarding career in personal financial planning."

As part of considering the school's application to register its program, the CFP Board compared the program with the financial planning-related topics identified in extensive, periodic job-task analyses. Individuals should demonstrate mastery of the financial planning process and general principles, risk management and insurance planning, investment planning, tax planning, employee benefits planning, retirement planning and estate planning before they can be considered qualified to provide competent, professional financial planning services.

"This certification is a very important strategic initiative for (the Department of Economics, Finance, and International Business and the Center for Financial Services)," said Dr. John Clark, director of the Center for Financial Services in the College of Business and Economic Development at Southern Miss. "Financial planning is one of the fastest-growing career paths in finance nationally because of the growing number of people responsible for making their own retirement planning investment decisions due to the reduction in corporate pension plans in favor of self-directed retirement plans. Demand is particularly high here in southern Mississippi because of the growing retirement community development on the Coast and elsewhere. Providing well-trained students to meet this need is central to the mission of the Center for Financial Services."

A relatively young profession, financial planning emerged as a unique discipline about 30 years ago. Distinguishing it from other financial professions is its basic philosophy: financial planning is a process, not a product, CFP officials said. "Simply put, it is the process of determining how an individual can meet life goals through the proper management of his or her financial resources. A financial planner takes a big-picture view of a client's financial situation and makes financial planning recommendations based on the client's needs." That may explain the 49 percent increase in the number of CFP certificants from 1996 to 2001.

"This certification is further validation of the type of program we are able to offer students at Southern Miss," said CBED Dean Harold Doty. "Our college's mission is developing careers, and this is just one more way we can send students into the business world well prepared."

Southern Miss' Center for Financial Services was formed in 2001 to prepare students for successful careers in the evolving financial services industry and to meet the demand of the industry for employees knowledgeable in a full range of financial services. The degree program focuses on a curriculum geared toward today's current financial trends and analysis techniques as well as those defined by the CFP Board of Standards. A designated degree in financial services provides students with knowledge in numerous areas, such as professional selling and estate planning.

The program currently numbers about 20 students, "but we expect enrollment to grow now that our program has been approved by the CFP Board," said Clark, who spearheaded the four-month task of obtaining the certification. "Students are beginning to recognize the attractive career opportunities available in the financial services industry, especially the fact that this is an industry that has opportunities for people with very diverse skill sets, ranging from strong people skills to strong quantitative skills."


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM