In 2013, the Center for Financial Services (CFS) at DePaul University hosted Sheila Bair, fresh from her stint as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
In 2014, DePaul's Arditti Risk Management Center held its first Cyberrisk Security Conference, which featured keynote speaker Peter W. Singer, one of the nation's foremost experts on military, cyber and national security.
In 2015, CFS held a one-day conference with Nobel Economics Laureate Eugene Fama.
While these speakers are impressive, they make up just a part of the education, partnership and research eco-system that DePaul's Department of Finance at the Driehaus College of Business has created with The Research Institute.
Three centers comprise the institute: the Center for Financial Services, the Arditti Center for Risk Management, and the Driehaus Center for Behavioral Finance. The recent creation of The Research Institute to serve as an umbrella for the three comes just as the Center for Financial Services and the Arditti Center are poised to celebrate their 10th anniversaries in 2016.
"We're establishing a center of excellence for local Chicago financial institutions," says Alexander Perry, associate director of the Research Institute. "We want to be a conduit for the community, providing students a way to engage with professionals in the banking and risk management industries, as well as offering forums and conferences for finance professionals to engage with each other on relevant issues."
To understand the impact of the department's outreach, you just have to look at the recent accomplishments of the centers.
Creating a Center of Service
Ten years ago, Elijah Brewer was a new DePaul associate professor of finance with an idea. After speaking with a friend, who was a board member at the Federal Reserve Bank at Chicago, Brewer drafted a proposal for a new financial center at the DePaul.
"We wanted a center that would enhance the value of education for both undergraduate and graduate students," recalls Brewer, now chair of DePaul's Department of Finance department. "We wanted also to sponsor conferences that would help spur public debate on the issues that are important to into the Center for Financial Services.
Since then the center has hosted nine annual conferences on wealth management, helped foster a new degree program, the MS in Wealth Management, and spearheaded an executive forum series featuring such high profile speakers as U.S. Ambassador William Burns and Shelia Bair, who served as an executive-in-residence at DePaul.
In addition, the center has established partnerships with Chicago's leading financial institutions and regulators, including MB Financial Bank, BMO Harris, First Bank and Trust of Evanston and, of course, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
The center's true legacy can be seen in DePaul’s classrooms. For example, Mark Hoppe, CEO of MB Financial Bank, is one of several business leaders who has provided real-world advice to students. Through his connections with the Center of Financial Services, Hoppe and other MB Financial executives were invited to participate in a case study in a Money and Banking class taught by Lamont Black, assistant professor of finance. Read the story here.
It was in this class that student Elizabeth Hernandez met the executives and that sparked her interest in commercial banking.
"This was my favorite part of the class," Hernandez says of the executives' presentations. "If you read something from a book or you go over it in a case study, it's not the same as when the people involved actually explain their decision-making process. You learn much more. It got me interested in commercial banking."
Need for Risk Management Knowledge Expands Offerings
Recently, the centers have expanded their focus on risk management, says Brewer.
Now in its second year, the Cyberrisk Conference, sponsored by the Arditti Center, is a one-day conference popular with insurance, finance and other professionals, as well as students.
In 2015, the conference doubled in size and it is projected to be even bigger next year. The keynote speaker, Major General USAF (retired) Brett Williams, spoke to a standing-room-only audience.
In addition to the cyberrisk conference, the Arditti Center is keen on expanding educational opportunities in risk management. The center supports DePaul's new Actuarial Science (BSB) major, a joint degree with the math department, and the MS in Enterprise Risk Management, which helps finance professionals become fluent in risk management.
"It is my vision that under the umbrella of the Arditti Center we can carve out a corner of this department dedicated to advancing education in the risk and insurance arenas," says Brewer. "Risk is all encompassing and we want to help prepare our students for this growing industry."
Preparing for the Future
DePaul's finance department has big plans on the horizon for the Research Institute. More real-world topics, such as climate change and women in finance, are being considered as themes for future conferences. And the institute will hosts its first large-scale event, a 10th Anniversary Celebration, in 2016 to recognize long-time partners and secure funding for its centers.
Perry says helping DePaul students navigate the world of finance remains the central focus of the centers.
"Our goal is to have the Research Institute be a major force in all things finance, but we want to stay true to our Vincentian mission," says Perry. "We want to open up doors as much as possible for our students, many of whom are first generation, or minority students, to connect to the larger community of financial institutions."
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