WASHINGTON (2/8/11)--Georgetown University Alumni & Student FCU, a student-intern-run credit union, was featured in Sunday's column by the Washington Post
columnist Thomas Heath. The credit union is a virtual training ground for big jobs in finance after graduation. The credit union’s alums end up at firms such as Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, First Manhattan, Barclays, Morgan Stanley, the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Procter & Gamble, and Harvard Business School. Heath described the 105 student interns as “hard-charging entrepreneurs” who work up to 50 hours as volunteers. They are familiar with financial terms such as basis points, net worth ratio and delinquency rate. The independent, student-run institution started in 1983 with a $100,000 investment from the university. Today it has 7,000 members, about $15.5 million in assets and $1.5 million in outstanding loans. Overhead is minimal since there are no human resources expenses. The credit union does pay for an occasional group dinner. The big payoff is intangible. “The reason I got my job at Goldman Sachs was because I had the credit union on my resume,” alumnus Chris Villar, 30, told Heath. “During interviews in college you're competing against thousands of other kids who all have impressive backgrounds, but the credit union gets you noticed and stands out.” Villar and another credit union alum, Aaron Shumaker, left Goldman in 2007 to start McLean-based FrontPoint Security, which sells do-it-yourself wireless alarm systems. In an e-mail, Arjun Mehta, the credit union’s CEO, described what the CU teaches interns. They learn how to:
* Excel in a professional environment; * Handle crises and other stressful situations; * Talk to members, customers and clients; and * Talk to a perfect stranger.
One lesson is how to say no. One loan applicant who wanted money for a treadmill was turned down. The applicant lived next to the gym. Katie Cohen, who will become CEO on March 1, said that working with members who are delinquent on their loans is particularly instructive. Cohen said it’s important to develop mutual respect between members and the credit union. “One of the important things is we want to find out to what extent they can actually perform under pressure,” Mehta said. “We invest a lot into our interns. So we have to make sure we have the right group of interns.” Those who pass muster start training as tellers for two hours every night for a week. Once they finish a semester as tellers, interns start working in other departments, including finance, operations, member service, collections and credit. As the interns work their way up, they may learn to evaluate loan applications, read credit scores, make accounting entries, work with clients and supervise tellers. In return for the hard work, the credit union teaches its members how to conduct themselves in the business world. It runs a virtual career center, holding mock interviews and coaching interns on how to get a job. Seniors help underclassmen through the interview process.