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Setting Students Up for Success

Don Parker considers teaching a personal calling, a chance to help the next generation of investment professionals launch meaningful careers.  

“I’m excited to guide students not only to master the material so they pass their FINRA licensing exams but also to develop a client-centric approach to the business,” says Parker, the newest member of the Knopman Marks faculty. “I really enjoy interacting with students.” 

Parker brings 30 years of industry experience to his new role, along with the resolve to compete in his first marathon. He knows first-hand the importance of remaining determined, focused, and hopeful while working toward a difficult goal. 

“I haven’t run much in 20 years, so it took a little while to get into it, but I’m finding it great,” says Parker of his training. “Like our students, I’m challenging myself and pacing myself. And in my case, the expression, ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint’ is literally applicable here.” 

Parker joins Knopman Marks after working for several retail and insurance-affiliated broker-dealers, including Robert W. Baird & Co. and Northwestern Mutual Investment Services. He has also taught and written securities and insurance licensing courses for Keir Financial Education and A.D. Banker & Company. 

Ian Franklin, head of faculty at Knopman Marks, appreciates the wealth of experience Parker brings to the team. “Don has decades of financial services and insurance experience, and is eager to roll up his sleeves and guide our students,” Franklin says. “He’s a strong addition to our faculty bench.” 

What’s Parker’s best tip for reaching a difficult goal? “Begin with the end in mind, and don’t rush any of the steps along the way,” he says. “Learn from mistakes, recalibrate, and persevere.” Here, the father of three adult sons who lives in Washington, D.C., discusses his path to joining Knopman Marks, the biggest influence on his teaching style, and his passion for setting students up for success.  

What has best prepared you to join Knopman Marks? 

I’ve been in the securities and insurance industry since 1991, and obtained my Series 7, Series 24Series 63, and Series 65 registrations. I worked as a training consultant for Northwestern Mutual, developing the company’s variable products training material and delivering virtual and classroom instruction. I also managed the company’s FINRA Firm Element training and training for NMIS’s investment advisory practice. I have taught Series 7, Series 24, Series 57, Series 63, and Series 65 courses for Keir Financial Education, I also developed the Series 7 and Series 63 manuals for A.D. Banker. 

What stands out about your own experience taking FINRA registration exams? 

The exams have changed a lot. When I passed my Series 7 test, it was a six-hour ordeal consisting of 250 make-or-break questions and an additional requirement to score at least 70 percent on the regulatory questions. That’s not the case today, what with the advent of the SIE (Securities Industry Essentials) exam and the smaller top-off exams designed to enhance core knowledge obtained from the SIE. This does not fundamentally change what needs to be known to become registered, but it opens the door for more individuals with a desire to be a part of the securities industry to come through the front door and attempt the test. I see my job as providing students with the tools necessary to pass the examination and create a pathway to success.  

Has passing several exams influenced your teaching style? 

Passing the alphabet soup of exams, I have taken, from registered representative (Series 7) to registered principal (Series 24), to investment advisory (Series 65), has not influenced my teaching style as much as my interaction with students. I remember working with Keir Financial Education and receiving a call from a student struggling with a section of the Series 7 on bonds and accrued interest. I took the call, walking up Connecticut Avenue away from the White House area as the vice president’s motorcade passed by. Not missing a beat, I explained to the student what was going on then made a pivot to the material giving him problems. After working a couple of examples, he thanked me for my time. A week later, he sent me a note to express his sincere gratitude that he not only passed his exam, but he also aced the section on municipal and government bonds. Stories like this influence my teaching style more than anything else. 

How would you describe your teaching style?  

I employ a lot of theatrics when I teach and tell a lot of anecdotes from the good old days. If my storytelling and knowledge help at least one student become good at what they do to impact one client’s life in a dramatic fashion, I did my job. This is what excites me about teaching. 

How would you compare training for a marathon to training to pass securities exams? 

There are also specific steps I need to follow in my training, just as students need to follow the steps in their action plan. You can’t  rush any of the steps. They take time. And like my students, I learn from mistakes. I’m leading up to the big race with shorter runs, just as students lead up to their big exam with practice tests. There were times I felt like I hit a wall, my body was screaming at 20 miles. But I had to keep pushing through. Whether it’s a good run or a difficult run, whether a student scores well on a practice test or not, you keep going. 

What do you enjoy outside of teaching and running? 

Raising three sons to adulthood has been very rewarding. I have also been involved in home building projects for Habitat for Humanity. I also enjoy serving as a board member for the United Way for the national capital area, and National Planned Giving Council–United Way of America.  

How would you describe a good day? 

A good day is waking up early enough and motivated enough to run around the National Mall or along the Anacostia or Potomac Rivers in the morning. I will often go with several running partners or alone sporting a pair of wireless earbuds. That time gets me motivated and helps me find the right  headspace to embrace the day and meet whatever challenge I may face. Then I can pass that motivation and calm focus on to my students. 

Suzanne Riss is an author and Director of Communications at Knopman Marks Financial Training. Previously the award-winning Editor-in-Chief of Working Mother magazine, she is a fierce advocate for issues facing working moms and an authority on work/life trends. Her expertise has been tapped in interviews by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, the Today Show, and CNN. Suzanne's third book, Work Disrupted, published by Wiley, was released in January 2021.