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DCE Magazine

Alumni Spotlight: A Certified Success

Fall 2019

Ryan Hook leveraged DCE's Personal Financial Planning certificate program to prepare for his MBA and CFP® mark, and shares sage advice learned along the way.

Ryan knew he wanted to become a Certified Financial Planner — “career insurance,” as he calls it. He had already finished his Bachelor's in Economics from UC Irvine in 2007 and capitalized on a successful internship at MetLife to become a full-time staffer. What next… he wanted to pursue a graduate business degree.

It was a no-brainer. The DCE Personal Financial Planning certificate program could give him a jumpstart to both goals: satisfy the educational requirement to take the CFP® exam, as well as provide transferable credits to the MBA program at California Lutheran University.

“I always knew I wanted to earn a graduate degree, and one of the nice benefits of the program at DCE is I could transfer some of my units and pass out about one-third of the MBA in Financial Planning at Cal Lutheran,” said Ryan, a DCE Advisory Board member and instructor. “It also saved me another few months of studying because the Cal Lutheran program doesn't require the GMAT if you finished the financial planning program at DCE.”

Today Ryan is a wealth manager at Creative Planning in Irvine, a nationally recognized firm that manages approximately $40 billion in assets. It's a position that wouldn't have been possible without his certification in financial planning, he says. And his DCE experience made it happen.

“There is zero-percent chance I would be a wealth manager at Creative Planning without UCI's certificate program and my CFP® certification. Getting my CFP® mark through UCI is the best thing I did for my career.”

Ryan, a recent Alumni Achievement award recipient, recently found time to discuss his life, his DCE experience, and strong family ties to the Irvine community. With a 1-year-old daughter and demanding job, it was no small task.

“[O]ne of the nice benefits of the program at DCE is I could transfer some of my units and pass out about one-third of the MBA in Financial Planning at California Lutheran University.” Ryan Hook

Let's talk about why you chose UCI in the first place.

I've always had a close family connection to UCI. Both my parents went to high school right across the street from UCI at University High. My Grandpa Ken and Grandma Pat moved down from Palo Alto to Irvine in the ‘60s, and they said Irvine was basically all strawberry fields and orange groves, and the 405 was a two-lane road back then. In the summer, my parents would send me to a math and science camp at UCI and I would stay at my grandparents’ house, just one minute away from UCI in Turtle Rock. So, UCI was a natural fit for me.

How did your economics degree help launch your career?

Well, UCI is getting better and better, so my degree is getting even more valuable since 2007. I'm very proud that UCI is ranked as a Top 10 public school in the country, and I was lucky to get a paid internship my junior and senior year at MetLife Investors. After two years, MetLife liked me enough to hire me full-time after graduating from UCI. I will be forever grateful for that opportunity and encourage every college student I talk with to aggressively pursue an internship, ideally paid. It's an invaluable learning experience and one of the easiest ways to get a job after college.

What prompted you to take the next step and get your CFP® certification?

After college, at MetLife, I was one of 80 people on the sales desk in the Irvine office. Less than five people had their CFP® certification. I knew that if I became a CFP® professional it would help me get promoted. So, I looked up local CFP® certification programs and the DCE offered an accelerated program where I could complete the classes in less than one year.

What sort of advice would you offer those starting out in financial planning? How important is it to get the CFP® mark?

I strongly advise getting your CFP® certification as soon as you can. Anytime is good, yet the sooner the better, before you have too many work and family obligations. Life seems to get more complex as we go. I was 25 at the time, definitely at a disadvantage experience-wise, but was still young enough to remember college and my cram-study skills. With no wife and kids at home yet, I had a lot of free time.

You called the CFP® mark a good form of “career insurance.” What are the practical benefits of getting certified?

It will 100% help you be a better advisor to your clients and give them confidence you have a baseline level of experience and competency. Ultimately though, it will help you advance your career by getting promoted where you are or help get you a job at one of the top wealth management firms in the country.

What's the career outlook for those looking to enter the financial planning field?

The outlook is very bright. The financial planning world is changing fast and clients are demanding an advisor that is a fiduciary, 100% fee-based instead of upfront commissions, and is fully independent. You want to be at one of the top-ranked firms so you remain competitive over the next decade or two, but there's nothing wrong with working underneath a successful or established financial advisor to learn and grow.

I'd really like to hear about your charitable work with the Raise Foundation. I understand your community work was a factor in your Alumni Achievement award.

The Raise Foundation is Orange County's official Child Abuse Prevention Council. I've been very involved with their Spring Gala, the main fundraiser they have each year, and every year I adopt a low-income family for Christmas. I also started volunteering for Junior Achievement, a charity that goes into low-income schools and teaches kids about money. I was lucky to teach a 3rd grade class in Fountain Valley this spring. They were so cute and eager to learn. The teacher sent a thank-you note from each student in a book tied together with yarn. It was really touching. I will keep that book for a long time.

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