December 27, 2011

An Executive MBA: The Ultimate New Year’s Resolution for Financial Advisors

Admissions consultant says EMBA programs offer midcareer execs a broader, more executive perspective in managing their business

With 2012 just days away, financial advisors looking for that new year’s resolution that just might stick should think long term: Rather than a diet that buckles before the first tempting pretzel dip on Super Bowl Sunday, consider finding an Executive MBA program that will deepen your knowledge and broaden your perspective.

Unlike that diet, the process is easy and enjoyable at first–as you explore the various options–and only gradually builds intensity as you start your learning program.

Financial advisors are a natural fit for EMBA programs since they very typically have bachelor’s degrees in business or economics and have achieved success in running a small business, but typically do not have advanced business degrees. And the lack of an MBA does nag at many advisors with a thirst for more sophistication in their investment analysis or their management of their own retail operations.

Linda Abraham, founder of admissions consulting service Accepted.com and co-author, with Judy Gruen, of the new book MBA Admission for Smarties, says EMBA programs are targeted to business people who are 10, 15 or even 20 years out of college.

In an interview with AdvisorOne, Abraham says that when it comes to mid-career people, grades and test scores may be less important career achievements. “These programs are looking for progress at work, responsibility at work, leadership at work. Your resume has to resonate,” she adds.

For those who are anxious about the GMAT standard admissions test for business school, Abraham says there are some programs that accept the more general graduate school admissions test, the GRE, and others that require neither, so an applicant is free to take the test and not submit his score if he is unhappy with it. The University of Michigan Ross School of Business is an example of a big-name school that does not require a test.

Other programs of potential interest to mid-career professionals include the Sloan Fellows program or the Trium program. The former is run under the Sloan umbrella but individually managed by three schools– MIT, Stanford and the London School of Business; the latter is a single program run jointly by NYU Stern, HEC Paris and the London School of Economics. All are prestigious programs known for their rigor, but are

immersive, full-time programs for mid-career executive who must take a year off work to enroll in the programs.

EMBA programs, in contrast, are geared to working professionals who take courses in the evenings or weekends–typically over a 21-month period.

That level of commitment requires the understanding and cooperation of the executive’s employer and family, Abraham says. “Your employer has to be behind it if you’re going to be taking off time now and then. And the applicant has to give serious thought as to how to handle the demands of learning. Who will take care of child care responsibilities, for example?” she says.

While there is a view abroad that EMBA programs lack the same level of rigor as full-time MBA programs, “the school will insist it’s the same caliber program as the full-time MBA.” Regardless, she says, “there’s no asterisk attached to the letters [in the degree]. It’s just MBA.”

More importantly, the author and admissions expert says an EMBA will do more than just add a credential. “If the financial advisor felt like he needed some more operations knowledge and marketing knowledge or wants to see more of an executive picture,” an EMBA program will “broaden his perspective” and “could give entrée to networks he never had before,” she says.

Abraham says her new book does more than other books that advise on filling out forms and writing essays. “It provides a strategy for acceptance,” she says, and has a section for older applicants as well.

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