Marquette Business

A banking ‘stake in the ground’

College of Business Administration to launch Certified Professional Banking Program

With a vision to further professionalize the banking industry and grow the pipeline of bankers, Marquette University’s College of Business Administration is launching a new Certified Professional Banking Program.

Beginning with a pilot, the new program is expected to begin in late 2024 and will offer a common body of knowledge to all bankers, including curriculum that emphasizes accounting, finance, economics and evolving technology. The innovative effort is made possible from a generous gift from Todd and Camille Nicklaus. Todd is a 1986 Marquette graduate who has spent his career as a banking executive.

“We have witnessed first-hand the vital role that bankers play in the development of their communities,” Todd Nicklaus said. He shared that their family was inspired by his father’s longtime career as a community banker and his impact on his hometown. “It is important for us to give back to ensure that future generations can continue to make progress, while serving ethically and interacting with shared values.” 

The Nicklaus family is encouraging additional alumni, parents and friends to support the new program.

The new certification program expands on the College of Business Administration’s foundational Commercial Banking Program, which has placed 100 percent of its graduates in the industry since its inception in 2017. The offering is one of the few undergraduate programs of its kind in the nation and the only known program of its type in the Midwest.

“This is a significant step forward for Marquette Business as we continue to drive signature programs that embody academic excellence and extend into the community,” said Tim Hanley, acting Keyes Dean of the College of Business Administration. “We are grateful to the Nicklaus family for their leadership and belief in our vision to bolster the banking industry.”

Setting a standard of professionalism

Dr. Kent Belasco

The certification program will culminate with an exam to establish a common standard of professionalism in the field, taking a similar approach to how Chartered Financial Analyst and Certified Public Accountant programs are completed.

“We are excited to create a Certified Professional Banker Program rooted in the university’s socially responsible consciousness,” said Director Dr. Kent Belasco. “This is our stake in the ground. We believe a Marquette Certified Banker will be a catalyst to elevate the industry and bolster perceptions about the virtue of banking.”

Belasco has nearly four decades of banking and consulting experience with companies such as Citicorp, Exchange National Bank, Deloitte and Touche, and First Midwest Bank.

“People don’t often realize that bankers, particularly those in local communities, are driving the economy,” Belasco said. “Thanks to the Nicklaus family, we see tremendous opportunity to both grow and shape the talent pipeline.”

Experiential learning plays an essential role in the current undergraduate program, as students evaluate and analyze actual small business loans, presenting them to a committee of bankers. The loans, which come from partnerships with many banks and Community Development Financial Institutions, aim to create growth, jobs and improved communities. Belasco said he plans to build off these partnerships to help drive the direction of the certification program, filling the needs and aspirations of banking leaders.

“We have worked to develop a curriculum with a conscience that builds on our belief that modern banking has been and will continue to stimulate societal good,” Belasco said. “I’ve never seen the demand from the banking industry for talent like it is now compared to at any point in my career. We see opportunities to create synergies between our undergraduate foundation and the connection to banking professionals across the world.”

Editor’s note: Banking professionals interested in taking part in the pilot Certified Professional Banking Program can contact