ABA Banking Journal - July/August 2017 - 30
> NEXT GENERATION LEADERSHIP
Four ways bank leaders can support undergraduate education
programs and build the next generation of bankers.
BY MONICA C. MEINERT
ent Belasco is on a mission to bring more young
people into banking.
The former bank CIO-turned-college professor is
working to build a concentrated undergraduate
commercial banking curriculum at Marquette University
in Milwaukee that allows students to graduate with the
skills they need to move immediately into careers as
It's one industry veteran's approach to solving a growing
problem: a lack of young talent entering the banking
profession. "The need is out there," he says. "The timing is
perfect, because there's a lot of aging bankers that are looking
to retire-they need succession and they need talent."
Marquette's commercial banking program is housed within
the school's finance department, and occupies a particular
niche within the department's other offerings. "What we're
finding is that the students don't all want to go into investment
management or portfolio management or real estate, and
that there was a gap in there," Belasco says. "Rather than
having somebody come out with just a degree in finance,
this afforded an opportunity to get specifically into a more
mainline profession that we can move kids directly into"
One of his main goals is to "professionalize" banking as a
career track for up-and-coming generations that may be
less aware of opportunities within the commercial banking
industry. The hope, he says, is that students will come to see
banking the same way as they would accounting or any other
skilled profession, and that they'll leave the program ready to
enter the workforce.
As a former banker, he has a unique perspective that's helped
him develop the curriculum. "I've approached it from a
ABA BANKING JOURNAL | JULY/AUGUST 2017
management standpoint," he says of his program. "I always
thought there was a certain set of skills that all my managers
should have, and we've tried to create those" in the various
Students accepted into the program begin their coursework
during sophomore year, going through a sequence of
introductory classes in financial management and banking.
As upperclassmen, they take courses in bank leadership,
investment analysis, risk management and financial
modeling. In addition to hitting the books, students also take
part in at least two summer internships to put lessons learned
in the classroom into action.
Belasco's program is just out of the starting gate-it started
in the spring of 2017 with a cohort of about 20 students,
with the hope of growing by 20 to 25 students each year.
Meanwhile, a thousand miles to the southwest, James Bexley
oversees a program that's been running steadily for years-a
20-year marathon push to attract students to the profession.
Like Belasco, Bexley is another former banker who made
his way into academia. During the '80s and '90s, he served
as president and CEO of several struggling banks in Texas,
Tennessee and Pennsylvania, helping them weather difficult
times. Eventually, he found his way to Sam Houston State
University in Huntsville, Texas, and began building the
school's banking program from the ground up.
Since its founding in 1997, the school has introduced a minor
in banking, a bachelor's degree program in banking and
financial institutions, and most recently in 2005, an executive
MBA program. Working in close partnership with bankers,
regulators and the Texas Bankers Association, Bexley has
helped facilitate internships for more than a thousand young
men and women at the university and placed more than 700
graduates in careers in the banking industry.