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“I Needed to Gain More Knowledge”

By Shana Childs (’14JRN)

In 2017, Frances Suarez was only a year out of college but ready for a change in her marketing career. “I wanted to move out of Florida since I’d never left,” she recalls. 

She took a leap of faith, moving to Chicago and working for a commodities trader as a broker assistant. Suarez soon discovered a new world of possibilities in finance, learning about the stock market, investment operations, and eventually financial advising and wealth management. 

Five years into her career, mostly at Northwestern Mutual and more recently Mission Wealth, Suarez decided to enroll in Columbia University’s M.P.S. in Wealth Management program. The idea: fill “the gap between the undergraduate degree I received” and her role as a senior client advisor associate. 

Specially designed to accommodate working professionals, Columbia’s Wealth Management program is online with asynchronous instruction and takes 16 months to complete. A good thing, since Suarez is now based in Texas. 

She recently shared her impressions of the program. 

How did you learn about wealth management, and what attracted you to the profession?

As a senior client advisor associate at Mission Wealth, I work with six advisors, helping them to create financial plans, build investment proposals, and assist clients with any needs, and I participate in client meetings along with the advisor. When I began working for a commodities trader, I loved learning about the stock market and how the industry works, but I wanted to make sure that I had an impact on people. Wealth management was a route that attracted me because I enjoy not only helping clients manage their finances but also assisting them to achieve their long-term goals. 

What led you to apply to Columbia's M.P.S. in Wealth Management? Why now?

As I continued gaining experience in my job, I realized that I needed to gain more knowledge on the basics of wealth management. I have learned many valuable strategies through on-the-job experiences throughout my career, but I felt there was a gap between the degree I received and the industry I’m currently in. I shared my desire to formalize my education with Lisa Murphy, one of my coworkers who had recently graduated from this program; she encouraged me to apply. 

How are you applying what you’ve learned at Columbia so far? 

In this program, I have learned a lot, especially in the Financial Psychology course. We learned the different types of money scripts and biases that people may have; it’s helped me to better understand my clients. Now I can speak with my clients and get an understanding as to why they hold on to an investment or how they have a certain way of looking at finances. 

How have you managed to network? 

Even though this program is fully online, I have networked with every single one of my classmates and professors and with industry professionals. Our program has consistent webinars in which they bring in all levels of industry professionals with a variety of expertise. Another way in which I have networked is through this program the Women of Wealth Management Club. The club gets together to talk about different topics of women in the industry, and we also bring in speakers as well. Our courses also have many group projects that allow me to interact with my classmates on a daily basis virtually, whether that is using Zoom or WhatsApp. 

Which courses are you taking this semester?

Tax Planning and Investment Management. So far these courses have already provided a great amount of information that’s directly relevant to my career. For example, understanding how assets are titled and how we can look at past investment data to help us understand the stock market. 

About the Program

A 16-month online program with asynchronous instruction, specially designed to accommodate working professionals, Columbia University’s Master of Professional Studies in Wealth Management program is taught by distinguished faculty with deep, applied experience in their respective fields. Additionally, it is a CFP Board Registered Program designed to help students meet the educational requirements for CFP® certification. 

The priority application deadline for fall 2023 enrollment is February 15, and the final deadline is June 15. Students who have international transcripts are encouraged to apply by March 15. Learn more.