A large neon sign that reads “Bring the Joy” hangs in the center of the Knopman Marks Financial Training offices, making no secret of the motto that guides the firm’s new CEO, Liza Streiff.
Finding ways to make the challenge of studying for the notoriously thorny securities licensing exams more enjoyable helps the firm consistently deliver the best pass rates in the industry, Streiff says. “We wanted to bring a holistic approach and a human touch to the process of preparing for these difficult exams,” she notes. “That’s why we make sure our students have someone they can contact anytime they get stuck or need encouragement. We help them schedule time to study because we know many are juggling jobs, families, and other demands. We also bring humor into the classroom. We’ve found that with greater joy comes greater success.”
This has certainly been true for Streiff herself. Since joining Knopman Marks 14 years ago, she has enjoyed leading the digital transformation of the training platform along with the training itself, which has evolved to reflect the way tech-native Gen Z consumes information. As a result of these and other changes, Knopman Marks has seen a 723 percent increase in enrollment since Streiff joined the firm. “We’re training more students for more exams than ever before,” Streiff says, “and we continue to see the percentage of students who pass their exams hold steady or rise even higher.”
Here, the 35-year-old powerhouse and proud mother of three discusses her greatest inspirations, her plans for continued innovation and company growth, and her ideas about future-proofing careers in finance.
What does “Bring the Joy” mean to you?
It means we stop expecting circumstances or other people to give us joy but rather we each own the responsibility to bring it into our work and our encounters with others. This allows us all to operate at our peak level. I credit Brendon Burchard and his high-performance training with introducing me and my team to this concept.
What sets Knopman Marks apart from other financial training firms?
As our founder Harvey Knopman would always say to our students, “We’re in this together.” From the launch of the firm in 1991 until his retirement in September, Harvey took very seriously the responsibility of seeing each and every student through to a pass. He would remind us that for some, passing the exams meant being able to keep their jobs and feed their families. Thanks to Harvey, going above and beyond for our students is in our DNA. We don’t hand them a pile of books and say, “good luck!” We coach. We mentor. We offer resources for problem areas. We really care about each student. If we don’t hear from someone, we’ll reach out.
What type of support do students usually look for?
In addition to the training itself, students often need confidence boosters. Some are nervous. Others are struggling to find time to study. We help them realize that they can do this. We’ve been exploring the larger trends that characterize the future of learning, including helping our students develop what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset” and wrote a white paper exploring the applications for our students. People with a growth mindset don’t see challenges or setbacks as a reason to give up but as a springboard for growth and for stretching their abilities. Her 20 years of research shows that this mindset allows us to thrive during the biggest challenges of our lives. We put this concept to the test this past summer, in the midst of COVID-19, when we introduced a brand new blended training model, and saw our students achieve the best exam results in our firm’s history. We’re very excited to continue to offer our students tools to thrive in the face of challenges.
What is one key ability you would like students to develop during their time with you?
We help our students develop many abilities that help them succeed, but I’d say grit is especially important. Grit is that courage and resolve, that passion and persistence, that help us succeed. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth has done a lot of research into grit and believes we can all develop it. That’s exciting because it means that students with a track record of failing, for example, can develop grit if we make sure they have a small win. That win can propel future wins. I see this notion of grit, and our ability to measure it, to be a big part of our future.
Women hold only about 5 percent of the CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. Do you think gender plays a role in whether or not someone can be a strong leader?
Women are absolutely suited to leadership positions. Women offer highly developed empathy, emotional intelligence, and communication skills, which are fundamental to strong leadership. I’ve been inspired by Simon Sinek, the best-selling author and organizational consultant, who talks about leading in terms of providing service and caring about the needs and aspirations of others. He taught me that our job as leaders is not to be in charge but to care for those in our charge. When you care about the people you work with, and they’re happy, they do their best. This is true for my team and for our students.
What do you mean when you say Knopman Marks can help future-proof careers?
Ultimately, we want to help our students do more than pass their exams – we want to set them up to have great careers. I watch our students come out the other side feeling proud of themselves and recognizing that they learned a lot, and had fun in the process. We’re finding that the tools and training our students receive to meet the challenges of the exams help them succeed in other challenges they face. That’s what’s really exciting to me – the opportunity to help our students develop grit and a growth mindset that is theirs to keep and that can help them thrive throughout their careers.
What brings you the most joy in your work?
There’s nothing better than seeing someone overcome a challenge and grow in confidence. I get to watch my team, and our students, embrace challenges, own their success, and step into their greatness. That’s the ultimate joy for me.
Updated February 17, 2021