For possibly the first time ever, the top executives from St. Louis’ Big Four wealth management firms will gather on the same stage for WashU Olin Business School’s next wealth and asset management research conference August 22-23.
“I don’t know that it’s ever happened before,” said Rich Ryffel, senior lecturer in finance at Olin and the senior market manager for Missouri at J.P. Morgan. The conference draws hundreds: researchers, industry professionals and the next generation of professionals, students from Olin’s wealth and asset management program. Ryffel was instrumental in establishing WAM as one of the four tracks available for Olin’s master of science in finance degree, which enrolled its first class three years ago.
Program planners would have been thrilled to get six in that inaugural class. Instead, 42 students enrolled. The numbers grew in each of the next two years, with 72 in the current class.
Ryffel said the program fills a need in the market. He said he is unaware of a similar program anywhere else in the country. Students often asked how they could break into the industry. And professionals sought opportunities to create a talent pipeline.
“The vision we had for this program, is that if we did this correctly, we’d merge three constituents—students, practitioners and faculty,” he said. For example, he’s working with his colleagues at J.P. Morgan to build a bridge between data at J.P. Morgan and Olin researchers and using the conference as a way to build more connections through networking and amplifying research being done.
He also works on bringing practitioners to Olin to serve as guest lecturers and provide networking opportunities for students. Meanwhile, students gain opportunities to improve their skills and show their stuff by working on practicum projects firms offer through the Wells Fargo Advisors Center for Finance and Accounting Research.
These benefits are also part of the value of the annual WAM research conference, now going into its fourth year.
“We want to make sure we’re showing how the research can be more useful to practitioners and show researchers the reality of this work in the field,” Ryffel said. “This is also one way we get the practitioner community involved with Olin.”
Another highlight of this year’s conference will be a talk by David Booth, executive chairman of private investment firm Dimensional Fund Advisors in Austin and namesake of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
The fourth annual conference will launch with a panel discussion featuring the four top executives from St. Louis’ Big Four wealth management firms: Ron Kruszewski, CEO, Stifel; Dave Kowach, president and head, Wells Fargo Advisors; Penny Pennington, managing partner, Edward Jones; and Peter Desilva, president/retail, TD Ameritrade.
The schedule is shaping up to include a host of practitioners from firms including Warburg Pincus, Oak Summit Capital and SixThirty, as well as faculty researchers from WashU Olin, Harvard and Ohio State University.