Conversation with The President: Where's The College Expanding Its Educational Footprint?

Conversation with The President: Where's The College Expanding Its Educational Footprint?

financial knowledge and education programs
Conversation with The President: Where's The College Expanding Its Educational Footprint?
George Nichols III
Dec 21, 2020

If you aren't moving forward, you're sitting still. The American College of Financial Services is always innovating to meet the financial knowledge needs of financial services professionals and society. It's in our DNA; it's in our mission; and in 2020, we set the foundation for exciting ventures ahead.

The College’s mission is to deliver applied knowledge and education, to promote life-long learning, and to advocate for ethical standards for the benefit of society (emphasis mine as I transition to my perspectives on what’s next).

Benefiting society is a noble pursuit that’s more inclusive and welcoming. One way to empower people is through the transfer of applied knowledge across a variety of topics. The College is not content sitting in a stale silo – because the breadth of needed financial knowledge is evolving. It’s not just about product solutions, but also behavioral thought. It’s not just about pen and paper, but also leveraging new technology to improve experiences.

Here are my thoughts on a few areas where The College can leverage its expertise, its industry partnerships, and its learning delivery model to make a real difference in the years ahead.

Listen to the short interview below, and make sure to subscribe to my blog to remain on the pulse of new College initiatives.

Jared Trexler: Hello, everyone. A happy holiday season to all, as we near the end of one of the most challenging, chaotic, unusual years in our nation's history. We hope all of you listening are safe and well and navigating these times with a strong belief for a brighter future. We at The American College of Financial Services are dedicated to being your lifelong learning partner and advancing our mission to benefit society. Today, I'm sitting down with College President and CEO, George Nichols III for his thoughts on The College's 2020, as well as his valuable perspectives from over three decades in the financial services industry.

Make sure to follow President Nichols on LinkedIn, Twitter, and sign up to receive his latest insights right to your inbox at

Different demographics have different needs. It's not just portfolio building anymore, and The College showcases its expertise in retirement income and wealth management, philanthropy, and special needs. Is there an area where you see The College expanding its footprint moving forward?

President George Nichols III: Yes, there are two areas. And I'm defining these two areas as the financial knowledge and capabilities that we should be sharing with advisors and with their clients. One would be on the behavioral side. Too often I think in the financial services space, we have prepared, and we do a great job of providing you with the technical skills to address an individual's financial needs, which then becomes a financial transaction. But the reality is, and especially as we still go through COVID-19, people are beginning to realize that as I've stayed in my house for the last eight months, I really haven’t spent a lot of money, and I may have ordered a lot from Amazon or Walmart, but really relationships become important. My family becomes important. And so we believe that the future advisor and the future consumer are going to be thinking yes, about how much money I have, but more about the experiences I have. How I choose to live my life. How do I want my retirement to occur? What kind of situation do I want to leave for my children and their children that is related to their lifestyle and their experiences? And I don't think we do enough of that today.

In our Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (CAP®) program, in which I'm now a student, we talk about above the table and below the table. Above the table is the why. Below the table is the how. If you want to be successful in philanthropy, you have to understand the why, why they want to give, why they want to have more money to do certain things. And if you understand those things or you can help people understand those things for themselves, then you can look at what they have. And then we can figure out the how, the below the table, we can figure out, "Okay, here's what we have. What are the financial transactions? What are the things we need to do to help you get to the why?" And so that's the first one. And it really is a better understanding of an individual and families and businesses, not as a financial transaction, but more as the human being that they are, and then how do we help them live a lifestyle that is impacted by financial issues?

The second piece is all of us have been on Zoom. I mean, I know people that would tell you they have no technical skills whatsoever, but they know how to work Zoom now. And so there's been this technological acceleration in all of our lives. And there's a lot of people predicting that it's just going to get bigger. But what we want to help advisors and consumers understand is, sure this is necessary, but technology is a tool. It’s not the be all, end all. The fact is that Zoom became a tool for us to continue to interact with each other. And we want people to start thinking less about the tool and more about the value of the tool, that why I talked about the interactions and the relationships and the need to be engaged. And even though I can't interact with you physically, it really has done my heart good that I can at least see you and talk to you and learn more about you if I didn't know you.

As we worry about how the fiduciary issue impacts the majority of Americans who don't have a high enough net worth, will advisors want to work with them? And if there's less advice, then we've failed. We've failed because people do need good advice and good assistance in helping them make the right financial decisions. So, if then people are forced to go to robo-advisors, they still have a need because after the machine and the artificial intelligence tells them what to do based on inputs, there’s still the need for a human conversation to help them pull the trigger. And so if we are educating advisors, I think it's important for us to help advisors not be threatened by the technology and the digital components that their clients use and not be threatened by what they should use in order to serve their clients better. And it's trying to help them understand that tech a tool, but what is the end? What is the business problem? What is the life solution that it is serving? And then how do you fit that into the why for the client? And now you have a partnership.

Jared Trexler: Thank you so much, George, and thank you for listening. As The College continues to fulfill its mission, check back for another conversation with George in the months ahead. Here's to a safe, happy holiday season and make sure to bookmark the for President Nichols' latest professional insights and announcements of College initiatives.