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FINRA Foundation

Angelita Williams (202) 728-8988

FINRA Foundation Announces 2021 Research Award Recipients

Studies Advance Understanding of Financial Capability in the United States

WASHINGTON – The FINRA Investor Education Foundation (FINRA Foundation), in partnership with the American Council on Consumer Interests (ACCI), announced today the recipients of its higher-education awards to recognize early-career researchers who are advancing the understanding of consumer financial wellness and the complex relationships among financial literacy, financial capability and financial well-being.

The awards were presented during ACCI’s virtual annual conference, where the winners had the opportunity to share their findings and implications for Americans and their finances. ACCI is a leading organization for researchers and other professionals focused on research and programming on consumer well-being.

Each year, the FINRA Foundation awards $1,000 to a graduate student, post-doc, or any faculty member who received a Ph.D. less than three years from the date of application and produces an outstanding research paper using data from the National Financial Capability Study (NFCS). The winner of the 2021 NFCS Research Award is Blain Pearson, of Kansas State University, for his paper titled, “Demographic Variations in the Perception of Investment Services Offered by Financial Advisors.”

In addition to the 2021 NFCS Research Award, the FINRA Foundation recognized the following students with awards for their submissions in the Undergraduate Student Research Poster Competition:

2021 Undergraduate Student Research Competition

  • First place (Tie)
    • “Unbanked FinTech Use and Welfare Benefits During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Kiet Le and Gabrielle Martin, students of Sophia Anong, University of Georgia
    • “Understanding Student Loan Behaviors: The Role of Financial Knowledge,” Reya Sison, student of Melissa Wilmarth and Kyoung Tae Kim, University of Alabama
  • Second place
    • “Payment Habits and Contactless Payments as a Result of COVID-19,” Neha Matavalam, student of Sophia Anong, University of Georgia

“It is critical that the FINRA Foundation recognizes and supports the efforts of emerging researchers in the financial capability field. The work of these early-career researchers is particularly valuable as many Americans struggle to recover from the negative financial effects of a global pandemic,” said Gerri Walsh, President of the FINRA Foundation. “We congratulate these accomplished individuals and their impressive studies that provide new insights into the financial health and resilience of American households.”

“ACCI appreciates FINRA Foundation’s recognition of the importance of encouraging emerging scholars and early career publications to the body of knowledge in the field of consumer well-being,” stated Robin Henager-Greene, ACCI President. “The awards to young researchers are always a highlight of our Annual Conference experience as we engage with the next generation of professionals, and we are thankful for the continued partnership with FINRA Foundation.”

The FINRA Foundation presented its 2020 NFCS Research Award to Richard Stebbins, from the University of Alabama, and created an issue brief based on his submission. The issue brief, which is being released today, is titled, “What We Leave Behind: Financial Education and Estate Planning.” The full paper was published earlier this year in the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning.

About ACCI
Founded in 1953, ACCI is the leading consumer policy research and education organization consisting of a worldwide community of researchers, educators, and related professionals dedicated to enhancing consumer well-being. Learn more at

About the FINRA Investor Education Foundation
The FINRA Investor Education Foundation supports innovative research and educational projects that give underserved Americans the knowledge, skills and tools to make sound financial decisions throughout life. For more information about FINRA Foundation initiatives, visit

FINRA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to investor protection and market integrity. It regulates one critical part of the securities industry—brokerage firms doing business with the public in the United States. FINRA, overseen by the SEC, writes rules, examines for and enforces compliance with FINRA rules and federal securities laws, registers broker-dealer personnel and offers them education and training, and informs the investing public. In addition, FINRA provides surveillance and other regulatory services for equities and options markets, as well as trade reporting and other industry utilities. FINRA also administers a dispute resolution forum for investors and brokerage firms and their registered employees. For more information, visit