Cutting-edge technologies from phone apps to online security help retail banks retain relevance. But how do we ensure banking students enter the job market with current, practical experience and a comprehensive understanding of modern banking operations and practices? The Jerry S. Rawls College of Business Administration at Texas Tech University (TTU) launched the Excellence in Banking (EIB) Program in fall 2019 to bridge that gap. It’s the latest addition to TTU’s business certificate offerings.
On Nov. 1, officials introduced West Texas banker Mike Mauldin as inaugural director of this new academic specialty. Line Items recently spoke with Mauldin, the former regional director and chief executive officer (CEO) of First Financial Bank, about the need for this new financial curriculum and his plans for the program’s future.
LI: Why did Texas Tech consider a focused banking program like this necessary?
Mike Mauldin: There is a huge need for talented labor. Those of us in banking with gray hair, or no hair, began to realize we need to replenish the ranks of retiring bankers [baby boomers] in the next five years. We want to make would-be bankers more work-ready. By giving them more hands-on experience, we want to reduce the amount of on-the-job training for new hires.
LI: How did the idea to initiate this kind of banking program at Texas Tech come about?
Mauldin: It’s my understanding that it grew out of discussions that started at banking association meetings. Two or three years ago, former Tech Regent Scott Dueser, president/CEO of First Financial Bankshares in Abilene, approached finance professor Jeff Mercer, who was then senior associate dean, about manpower issues in the industry. With the assistance of Dean Margaret Williams, they formed a steering committee to raise money for an endowment. They hired me last September once they had secured $10 million, in just nine months (the endowment now exceeds $11 million). Bankers and business professors co-wrote the curriculum, and we began screening and interviewing student applicants in fall 2019.
LI: Is this program unique to Texas Tech, or are there similar programs elsewhere?
Mauldin: Sam Houston State University in Huntsville pioneered banking degree programs in Texas. There are about 100 students in Texas A&M University’s undergraduate banking program in College Station. In addition, there’s continuing education for professionals. Tech conducts a lower-level School of Banking, and Southern Methodist University in Dallas offers a three-year graduate program.
LI: Would you describe the curriculum and degree plan the program will offer?
Mauldin: It’s an upper-level undergraduate, and soon-to-be graduate, certificate program for finance majors.* They’ll learn about managing financial institutions, personal selling, credit and lending, loan analytics and financial statements. And they’ll have to pass a test administered by the Risk Management Association in order to graduate with a banking certification.
Banking schools generally teach commercial lending, but it’s also about wealth management, information technology (IT), trusts, etc. We want to encompass other areas – “paint with a broader brush,” so to speak.
LI: How many students and faculty do you expect to participate the first year?
Mauldin: We’ve admitted 12 so far, and we hope to have 20 by fall 2020. Eventually, I’d like to have 40 students per classification [freshman through senior]. I and several other current faculty members will teach EIB courses.
LI: What will students gain from this program that they can’t learn at other schools or on the job?
Mauldin: Along with working as interns, they’ll have experts from the field in class giving fresh perspectives on actual banking practices, like customer interviews, for example. We’d also like to take field trips to the state Capitol during legislative sessions. A lot of students don’t know that bankers are involved in the legislative process, so this would be a real-life learning experience.
LI: Are you planning any unique teaching tools or different approaches to instruction?
Mauldin: Yes. They include a required banking internship, plus I’ll be proposing a mentoring program, organizing conferences and workshops, promoting student organization activities and arranging visits to numerous banks, including the Federal Reserve, to observe how they operate. Students will also have the opportunity to interact with banking professionals and alumni.
We’re also trying to start a banking club that may participate with other business clubs and would be open to underclassmen, too. We want to recruit them and encourage them to consider this program earlier on.
LI: How will this program interface with the rest of the business school and the School of Banking?
Mauldin: Along with the finance professors, the marketing and IT faculty will be teaching courses as well. We’ll also be collaborating with the School of Banking from time to time, but we’re a stand-alone program.
LI: Are you hoping to meet the special needs of community/rural banks?
Mauldin: We’re preparing students to work in banking across the board; we’re not targeting just the rural or small bank niche. But we do want to recruit more students from rural and small towns, because urban students aren’t as likely to work there. An advisory board composed of leading bankers will help ensure that the program is meeting industry demands.
LI: What other challenges will you be preparing your students to face?
Mauldin: Society is changing the way it does banking. There are new paradigms to accept — think PayPal. The Fed’s new payment system has become a hotspot, and banks will have to partner with the financial technology firms (Apple, Google, et al.). Data delivery is much different now. You have to have the technical tools or you’ll drown in the new system.
That said, today’s students are in a good position to adapt to change; they’ve all grown up with cellphones and laptops. But you still have to have a banker across the desk from you.
*EIB graduates will earn baccalaureate degrees in business administration (finance) with certificates indicating a banking specialization.
To learn more about the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business Administration’s’ new Excellence in Banking Program, visit Texas Tech University’s YouTube channel and watch its short informative video.