Breaking the Mold: Internship Programs

At PRI, we spend our days helping financial institutions look at every aspect of their businesses to determine where they can improve their processes, which leads to enhanced culture and employee engagement. There are many avenues of attack we can take that lead to improved efficiency and increased profitability, which is our ultimate goal. As we work with a variety of institutions across the country, we gather best practices, including what has worked and hasn’t worked on the journey to a more fit and successful organization. Sometimes this even means noticing attributes of an organization that don’t have a direct tie to profitability. Typically, our blogs share insights to improve efficiency and profitability, but we’ve decided that these other aspects need to be shared, too! This blog series will share the wealth of information about things that other institutions are doing differently—breaking the mold, so to speak—so you can see what may work well in your FI.

This week, we’re discussing internship programs with Todd Mason, President and CEO at First National Bank of Pandora in Pandora, Ohio. Although making a profit is a high priority to FNB of Pandora, they are also laser-focused on giving back to their community. In fact, the FI’s stated mission is “Improving lives through community banking,” and every employee understands its significance.

“You can ask anyone working in one of our offices to repeat the mission statement, and they are able to do so,” Mason said. “It’s incorporated into our strategic planning process, and we encourage our team to create their own personal mission statements and have them as part of their annual performance reviews.”

FNB is headquartered in a small town of about 1,500 people, more than 100 miles from the capital city of Columbus and six hours west of Washington, D.C. Finding and retaining young employees who want to establish and grow their careers with a mission-minded community bank is not always an easy task.

Five years ago, Mason said he and his team were brainstorming fresh ways to bring in the kind of talent into which they wanted to make long-term investments. One idea was to create a summer internship program. FNB established close relationships with two area universities and began tapping eligible students.

However, the team had a longer-term vision for the summer internships. They would not only offer college students some solid experience in community banking but also become something of a 12-week interview process for a newly created role called Community Bank Associate. The internship position is a full-time, 12-month rotation through every corner of the bank, with a guaranteed salary, benefits, and no expected commitment to stay past the one-year mark. It is only offered to the most impressive summer interns.

“We established the community bank associate position to be a ‘no strings attached’ way to help someone’s career, but it has proven to be a great way to immerse young talent in our mission-focused culture of giving back to the community,” Mason said. “The summer internship program gives them experience in every function of the bank and helps direct their career aspirations. We have one former intern who is now the bank’s controller and in line to become the CFO one day.”

The Forbes article How to Develop a Successful Internship Program suggests that a well-developed internship program can be a valuable asset for organizations that want to promote from within and recruit employees who have similar values.

“By approaching the idea of an internship program with the intent of using it as part of a succession-planning process and as a training ground for new hires, I believe companies will find that it can be a key component of the recruitment process.” — Forbes

FNB’s HR team established milestones and goals for the community bank associate position, and all departments participate in the program. Those who have completed the internship say the deep and wide training they received during their term was invaluable to their careers and incomparable to internship experiences at other institutions.

Another program that helps FNB stay connected and give back to its community was born from a networking conversation between Mason and Paul Reed, Chairman and CEO at The Farmers Bank & Savings Co of Pomeroy, Ohio, during an Ohio Bankers League event.

The Junior Board at FNB comprises 24 juniors selected by six area high schools. FNB hosts the Junior Board once a month for six months to teach students about the FI and its business. Students practice their skills by developing and marketing products, buying and selling their companies and running their own board meetings. At the end of the program, FNB takes the students for an overnight trip to the state capital of Columbus, where they visit the Treasurer’s and Governor’s offices and meet with their state senators. They get a glimpse into how the lobbying process works, and they come away with personalized T-shirts featuring their company logos.

Mason said the Junior Board has become one of FNB’s most popular programs, and students (and their parents) clamor to be considered by their high schools for selection. It’s one more way FNB lives up to its stated mission of improving lives through community banking. It also ensures that FNB will be considered as an option for young people who want to stay in the area and establish their careers in the community.  

Reed’s Farmers bank has offered a Junior Board program since 2010, growing from nine students to 30 this year. The students establish their own companies, appoint committees to develop products and present their ideas to local business leaders in a “Shark Tank” type of experience. They form lifelong friendships with kids from other school districts who they may not typically cross paths with, and Reed said he knows of participants who have changed their career trajectories after being on the Junior Board.

FI internships can serve the important purpose of helping a smaller bank compete in terms of recruiting and retaining talent. They provide a positive atmosphere for mentoring, training and integrating future employees in the culture and mission of the FI. A smaller bank also can offer a more personalized and in-depth intern experience than a larger FI may have the opportunity to do, especially with thoughtful input and goal setting by the HR department. But perhaps the most meaningful feature of FI internship programs is what they give back to the community in terms of keeping the best and brightest contributing to the place they know and love.

Profit Resources specializes in identifying profitability improvement areas for financial institutions through revenue growth, cost control, streamlining processes, and effective use of technology. Contact us to learn more about our personalized approach to propel growth and improve profitability.

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