Finance alum brings his high school investors to Olin

  • March 8, 2018
  • By Kurt Greenbaum
  • 4 minute read

We chose St. Louis for several reasons. As a WashU graduate, I was comfortable with the people, the school, and knew that the school and campus wouldn’t disappoint the students.

—Brandon Miles, MSFC ’14

You can come home again. Even if you have a dozen of your high school students with you. Brandon Miles, MSFC ’14, made a point of coming back to Olin in mid-February with members of the Janesville (Wisconsin) Craig High School investment club—where he’s the advisor.

During the Feb. 16 visit, Miles—a business education teacher and financial advisor at Guist Wealth Advisors—and his 12 students toured sites in St. Louis and spent time at the university. They visited the Federal Reserve and sat in on a class and lecture by Olin Professor Radha Gopalan, followed by a campus tour with MBA ambassadors Yoni Argov and Matt Hain.

We caught up with Brandon for a Q&A about his visit and his students’ impressions.

What were you hoping to accomplish with this field trip for your investment club? Why did you choose to return to St. Louis for it (knowing there are some pretty good business schools closer to you)?

Our club’s main mission was to connect students with real-world professionals who worked in finance and economics. We chose St. Louis for several reasons. As a WashU graduate, I was comfortable with the people, the school, and knew that the school and campus wouldn’t disappoint the students.

As a business school and university, WashU is as competitive as they come, so I knew I was introducing my students to top-quality students, professors, and staff that many other schools cannot match. Earlier in the day, we stopped at the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown St. Louis, where the students had a discussion and Q&A session with Professor Bill Emmons, who is a night lecturer at WashU as well as the lead economist for the Center of Household Financial Stability at the St. Louis Fed.

2018-Inv-Club-Trip-Fed-Photo.jpgWe also wanted the trip to be a cultural experience and entertaining, and St. Louis was perfect for these goals. Students went up in the Arch, visited museums and the zoo, and explored the great city of St. Louis by exploring Delmar Boulevard as well as eating at some of the best restaurants in the country.

Did the trip accomplish what you set out? Why?

Absolutely! The students learned a lot about finance, economics, and college life in the small amount of time we were able to spend down there. The trip helped reinforce students who were already interested in the fields that they would enjoy studying these topics in college and performing these careers.

Students who are still on the fence trying to decide what to study gained more information to help them guide their decision-making process. I overheard many students mentioning the trip was the highlight of their senior year and some even set goals to go to WashU as a graduate student.

What were some of the surprises your students—and you—encountered during your visit?

I was certainly surprised how much the main campus has changed! I was expecting the spacious greenery outside of Brookings and then learned about the numerous ongoing construction projects. My students had heard how beautiful WashU’s campus was, but they were certainly awed when we arrived on campus and conducted our tour.

How did you make the transition from your MSFC to teaching?

My path certainly isn’t a common one. After graduation, my wife and I moved back to Wisconsin to be nearer to our families. I was hired by a large financial advisory firm immediately and worked as a financial advisor. Roughly a year later, another firm approached me and asked if I would take over part of their book of business to which I made a transition, but worked within the same community.

I have coached high school sports for many years and knew I loved working with students. I then decided I wanted to get out of some of the “rat race” rigors of finance and was able to, with my degree, immediately transition into teaching finance and investments at a local high school where I coach. On top of this, I started my private financial advisory firm, which I continue to grow and improve along with teaching.

You also work as a financial advisor; how do you balance those careers?

The balance has been difficult at time. The main thing was being upfront and honest with my clients about my schedule. With respect to advising and operating in the retail investment space, my strong belief is that approaching clients from an education point of view, instead of a sales one, creates a lasting bond and confident clients.

Because my clients are comfortable with market fluctuations, as they are knowledgeable enough to understand fluctuations are common-place, they are happy to converse with me when I’m available. I also send out significant monthly market updates to my clients, which I feel helps them manage market-related stress and anxiety.

Why was it important for you to bring your investment club students on a roadshow like this?

Student exposure to industry outside of the classroom is very important to me. Hearing from professionals who are in positions they desire adds another element to their learning. When students hear about similar things in a “real-world” setting as they do in a classroom, it doubly reinforces their learning and their trust in their instructor. Plus, going to St. Louis in the winter when you’re living in Wisconsin is a welcome weather change!

About the Author

Kurt Greenbaum

Kurt Greenbaum

As communications director for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to find and share great stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I've worked for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management as communications director and as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun-Sentinel in South Florida and the Chicago Tribune.

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