For the past two summers, Filene has placed seven students from top universities, such as Carnegie Mellon University, Pepperdine Univeristy, University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin-Maidson, at credit unions and credit union organizations around the country.
This past summer Xceed Financial Credit Union in El Segundo, Calif., hosted Filene summer fellow Neha Marfatia, a recent MBA graduate from Pepperdine University. Marfatia went to work on market analysis and Gen Y strategy projects for the credit union that were so successful that President/CEO Teresa Freeborn and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Human Resources Kathryn Davis said that they are working on offering her a full-time position.
Marfatia helped set up Gen Y focus groups with both members and nonmembers and contributed new ideas for how to recruit participants. Marfatia came up with the idea to send e-mails and to post flyers in local Starbucks to get people to participate.
From the focus group, Davis said the credit union got the ideas to develop a blog and a Gen Y-specific Web site.
"She played a key role in helping to define both our Gen Y and e-commerce strategy. She helped us get our hands around product development and is currently working on a roadmap for our future product enhancements and development," Davis said.
The summer fellowship was so successful for Xceed that the credit union used Marfatia to help develop an expanded intern program for 2010. The credit union will offer around five internships to college students of all levels. The credit union has developed partnerships with local universities and is working on a case study program for an MBA program at a local university. Both are projects that Marfatia helped put together and will continue to work on in her full-time position at the credit union.
Freeborn said that having Marfatia at the credit union over the summer created an eye-opening experience for the credit union, not only for how it approaches projects but how the credit union views education.
"It's time that our whole industry raised the bar in terms of minimum entry educational requirements. What's wrong with making your first hurdle for hiring a college degree," Freeborn said.
Down the road, Freeborn said she'd like to have every employee at the credit union have a degree and is working with Davis to help existing staff reach that goal by re-examining its education assistance program.
"Imagine the power in having every employee have a degree. That would dazzle membership. There's been a complete change in mindset here and that comes back to participating in the internship program."
In the current hiring environment, the opportunities credit unions can offer interns and new graduates to work on real projects and work with executive staff is appealing to top students, Freeborn said.
When Marfatia started, Freeborn said they sat down with her and asked her what she was interested in doing. She was very excited to get to work on strategic projects and was very happy with the different projects she worked on over the summer, Freeborn said.
"She got to integrate with the CEO, executive management teams and the board. That is unique for a credit union, not every company is as open."
Freeborn said that Marfatia got to sit in on high-level meetings and even if she wasn't speaking at the meetings, Marfatia would sit and learn and provide perspective after the meeting.
Compared to other credit unions, Xceed has a young executive team, with an average age of 42, and a young overall staff, with half the workforce under the age of 40. Having a combination of both young managers and seasoned employees has helped propel the credit union, Freeborn said.
"Our culture of innovation, collaboration and a very fast-paced environment has been appealing to a younger audience. It's the ability to create tangibles from the abstract that has brought these individuals to our organization."