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Tackling Finance as a Non-Financial Manager: Q&A with Executive Education Faculty Stephan Shipe


To be a dynamic and effective leader in today’s business environment, you must have an understanding of your organization’s finances. All functional leaders, regardless of their area of focus, will inevitably face decisions that emphasize the importance of financial data.

Wake Forest University’s Executive Education department supports leaders as they enhance and develop their skills with a variety of non-degree and non-credit courses, including the upcoming program “Finance for Non-Financial Managers.” 

Professor Stephan ShipeWe talked with Dr. Stephan Shipe, Assistant Teaching Professor of Finance at the Wake Forest University School of Business, who facilitates the course, to learn more.

School of Professional Studies (SPS): Why is it beneficial for managers to have financial knowledge and know how to apply it? 

Stephan Shipe (SS): Managers are constantly tasked with making decisions and unfortunately often have to rely on intuition alone. By thinking through potential purchasing decisions from a financial context, they are able to supplement their managerial abilities and experience with numbers and expected returns. We’ve seen this implemented by participants who are not in traditional finance roles such as CFO, and are looking to purchase new equipment or acquire another company.

SPS: What are the key finance concepts and principles that participants will gain a solid understanding of through this program?

SS: The primary topics we cover are reading and understanding financial statements, capital budgeting, equity and debt markets, and time value of money.

SPS: How does this program break down complex financial topics into easily understandable and applicable knowledge for participants?

SS: We understand that participants come to this program with minimal background knowledge on these topics which is why we start very broad with the basics. Then, we dive deeper with specific real world examples and practice problems to approach the complex topics from a variety of angles. It’s also important to create an environment where participants feel comfortable to ask questions.

SPS: How does this program empower participants to communicate effectively with finance professionals and understand financial jargon commonly used in business discussions?

SS: Unfortunately, finance is notorious for jargon. NPV, IRR, margin, liquidity – the list goes on. We start with broad financial concepts and get more granular as the course progresses. By the end of the course, finance is not a foreign language and participants are using the jargon amongst themselves to work through our capstone case study.

SPS:  Are there any specific case studies or exercises in the program that allow participants to practice financial analysis and decision-making?

SS: We incorporate relevant current events into the course to break down problems real companies are facing today. We also use case studies with example financial statements so that participants can put their newfound knowledge to the test.

SPS: Are there any opportunities for networking and collaboration with executives or managers from other industries or organizations during the program?

SS: One of my favorite things about this particular program is the breadth of experience in the room with participants coming from all industries and positions. We spend time together working through problems as a large group and in rotating small groups which gives many opportunities to meet and learn from each other. 

SPS: How is the course content updated to address current economic trends and help meet the needs of participants and their organizations?

SS: We want this course to be constantly evolving. As we take into account feedback and requests from prior participants, this helps us continue to tailor the course to the ever changing needs of our participants and their markets.


Registration for the Finance for Non-Financial Managers course is now open; the virtual course is takes place from 1pm-5pm ET on the following dates:

September 18

September 20

September 25

September 27

October 2

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