Internship programs give students and graduates the opportunity to cut their teeth in a professional working environment and prepare themselves for life after school. For 40 interns in Michigan, they started cutting their teeth in financial services through a new program launched by Michigan State University Federal Credit Union ($3.2B, East Lansing, MI).
“We have a huge opportunity over the next five or 10 years,” says Deidre Davis, MSUFCU’s vice president of marketing and communications. “A large portion of Michigan workers are going to retire and we’re trying to be ahead of the curve in recruiting talented students and molding them for the credit union industry.”
MSUFCU's answer to the oncoming retirement boom is the $500,000, 3,000-square-foot Financial Innovation and Education Center it opened on April 26.
CU QUICK FACTS
Michigan State University Federal Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.16
HQ: East Lansing, MI
12 Month Share Growth: 12.09%
12 Month Loan Growth: 12.70%
Opening The FIEC
The credit union has had interns for a number of years, but the FIEC allows MSUFCU to concentrate that effort to a single, convenient location near the 50,000-student main campus.
“Our headquarters is miles away from campus," Davis says. “This center is right across the street from campus.”
The FIEC has an open design with room to fit, at current count, 22 interns and 12 additional full-time employees, including two managers. In a conference room, smart office technology allows employees to video conference and encourages group presentations. Because a main focus of the interns’ work is monitoring social media interaction, there’s also a social media wall where the credit union can monitor Instagram and Twitter, says Whitney Anderson-Harrell, the credit union’s vice president of sales and financial education.
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In addition, the center has murals both on the inside and outside. The outside mural, Anderson-Harrell says, was designed through a contest for students in MSU’s art program.
“Now they have their art as a part of the East Lansing community,” she says. “The center has become a cool and innovative space.”
Working In The FIEC
The internship started May 16 and runs all summer, during which time interns take training classes on topics such as professional etiquette, leadership, and interpersonal and communication skills as well as work on “real-world projects,” Anderson-Harrell says.
For example, interns are slated to provide case study analysis and tackle the credit union’s Financial 4.0 app.
Anderson-Harrell does not have specifics on the kinds of case studies interns will work on, but she says MSUFCU has ideas for new products that could be the basis for some of these studies.
The FIEC is located across the street from the MSU campus.
A view of the workspace and back wall of the FIEC.
This mural was designed designed through a contest for students in MSU’s art program.
As for the Financial 4.0 app, student interns will design it to help fellow students better their financial lives. The app features financial education content, including blog posts, budget tracking tools and quizzes, financial tips, and an Ask an Expert feature. And users can post results or goals directly onto social media.
“The interns love being a part of something they can see and share with their friends,” Anderson-Harrell says.
Interns also write the content and help to facilitate various contests run through the app — some of which are about financial education and others are just for fun.
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For example, in a recent contest interns took pictures from inside different buildings on MSU’s campus, posted them, and had users guess where each photo was taken.
“It created a lot of engagement,” Davis says. “Maybe they’re only in the app because of this contest, but they see all the different learning options and how it can help them become more financially educated.”
They’re really excited to work and be a part of the community.
Marketing The FIEC
The credit union has had interns for a number of years and has developed strategies to reinforce the quality of candidates. For example, it has a four-year-old partnership with MSU’s sales leadership program that requires students to complete 200 hours in internship experience.
The credit union’s main university partners are MSU and Oakland University; however, the institution also takes interns from partner schools, including Lansing Community College, Albion College, and Northwood University.
But to fill out the new center, Anderson-Harrell knew the credit union would need to do more.
“I met with all the universities and schools in our area,” she says.
In this, its first year, the FIEC received 200 applications and hired approximately 10%.
“They’re excited to work and be a part of the community,” Anderson-Harrell says.
In addition to the world of financial services, the internships also introduce participants to the greater Lansing community, beyond the cozy confines of campus life. In a monthly speaker series, area business leaders help interns network and learn more about work life in the capital city area.
And after the internship is over, MSUFCU aims to retain as many participants as it can. In the past the credit union has hired 20% to 30% of its former interns, Anderson-Harrell says. But she hopes to be able to retain the interns from the FIEC at a much higher clip.
“A lot of people don’t know about all of the opportunities here at the credit union,” says Davis, the marketing and communications vice president. “But the exposure that this internship and this center gives us is huge. Once we have them here and they’re really involved, they want to stay.”