A USD professor from Germany uses his passion and knowledge of international banking in the classroom.
Klaus Beckmann, an assistant professor in the Beacom School of Business, grew up in Flensburg, Germany. It was there that he found a love for money and math.
“Money always fascinated me,” Beckmann said. “When I was two years old, I was already counting my money. My mom said when I was six or seven, when I was watching T.V., I was always watching the tickers of the stock exchange and watching news on the stock exchange. I was always good with math and money, I just find it interesting.”
Beckmann said this ran in his family, considering his grand-uncle was the chairman of the board of the bank in his hometown.
“Since I was little he was always telling me, ‘when you grow up, one day you’re going to work for us,’” Beckmann said. “The same he told to my sister, and my sister actually ended working for that same bank, but I decided to work for a different bank, the main competitor. He didn’t really like this very much.”
After graduating high school in 1998, Beckmann said he joined the military for a year. After that, he began college at Leuphana University in Germany, where he studied business law and did a two and a half year apprenticeship at a local bank.
“So a lot of things that you learn in college in the finance major, I learned during that apprenticeship,” Beckmann said. “In the morning you go to school just like here and then in the afternoon you go to the bank and apply the things you learned. Then you have a final test and in Germany, not everyone can just work in a bank, you have to be certified. So I’m a certified banker by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce.”
Alexis Ritzman, a senior finance major, has had Beckmann as a professor for four classes and he advises two student organizations that she’s a part of. She said she enjoys learning an international perspective on finance from him.
“He likes to do a lot of comparisons between not just in America but how things work in Germany,” Ritzmann said. “Which is really nice because I guess if you want to work in the finance industry, it’s good to know about international things as well.”
During his time in college, Beckmann said he also did an exchange semester at the University of Texas (UT). It was there that the idea of being a professor was put into his mind.
“One of my professors down there actually was from Germany as well and he said, ‘the best thing you could ever do is become a professor in the United States,’” Beckmann said.
Upon returning to Germany, Beckmann was told he had to do an internship, so he did one at a bank in New York. That internship later turned into a job and he stayed in New York for a year.
After that year, he returned to Texas to get his MBA and Ph.D.
“During my exchange semester I met my now wife in Texas, so that’s why I decided to come back because I traveled basically during the time in New York every two works or so down to Texas,” he said.
While back at the UT, Beckmann said he taught a quantitative math course, which helped him decide he wanted to be a professor.
“I really liked the fact that when I taught the students I could see them improving their skills,” Beckmann said. “That always made me happy. That’s the main reason I do this job–because I love students, I love when they’re successful. I think every student deserves a good professor.”
Ritzman said Beckmann is one of the best professors she’s ever had.
“I had business finance with him, and I don’t think I would’ve been a finance major if it wasn’t for having him in class because of how well he taught it and how much he cares about everyone being able to learn,” Ritzmann said.
After finishing his Ph.D. program at the UT, Beckmann moved to Duluth, Minn. where he taught for two years at the University of Minnesota. In 2016, he decided to apply for a job at USD.
Beckmann said he applied for the job at USD because it was one of few universities that were looking for someone to teach banking. He also liked that the school has a great history with working with the Office of the Control of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
Matt Reesman, a senior economics major, has had one class with Beckmann and is in one of the student groups he advises. Reesman said he likes Beckmann’s passion for what he does.
“He’s passionate, driven, ambitious,” Reesman said. “He loves what he teaches and it helps that he teaches about banks and bank management, financial institutions and he came from the world of banking in Germany. So he kind of has that vested interest that he carries on when he teaches in the classroom.”
Beckmann said it’s his colleagues and students that make him enjoy teaching here.
“Primarily the students because they’re very polite,” Beckmann said. “I like the type of student, the way they are raised here. It reminds me a lot of my hometown, the way people are here they are very similar, just different language. I feel home here.”