SAN DIEGO- Inviting local students to gain experience in internship programs is nothing unusual for a credit union. But Mission Federal Credit Union’s intern this spring is hardly local, nor does he lack financial services experience. Achim Heyland arrived in San Diego from Munich, Germany, and has been working for Mission Fed as an intern since April. The 29-year-old brings with him a college degree, military experience, and nearly five years of experience in the banking industry. Heyland will receive his degree this summer, earning a triple major in Economics, Banking and Finance, and Business Administration. That experience is paying off for the $2-billion Mission Fed, which has tapped into Heyland’s experience and allowed him to contribute beyond the typical busywork intern tasks. Mique Kee, Vice President, Branch Operations, put Heyland to work reviewing branch policies and procedures, observing staff, and researching vendors for a new change counting machine. “He’s been instrumental in the implementation of branch procedures and our business continuity plan,” Kee said. “We’ll be talking about a process we’re considering changing, and he gives me ideas I’ve never considered.” Kee recalled a meeting Heyland attended regarding starter checks, and the cost of providing them for new members. Heyland was shocked that starter checks were an issue, because in Germany, consumers exclusively use debit cards. “I wondered, `what are they going to do with all of those checks?’” Heyland said. Kee said she enjoys learning how financial institutions work in Germany, because the perspective helps her consider new ways to solve problems at home. Heyland’s most recent university thesis explored an issue at the forefront of credit union marketing in America: cross selling to raise overall customer value. “He hasn’t translated his thesis into English yet,” Kee mused, “but I do pick his brain to see how we can apply his knowledge here and increase our number of PFI members.” Credit unions in the U.S. would jump at the opportunity to offer an intern position to someone like Heyland, who, in addition to his experience, paid his own way through college and is bilingual. But changes in the European economy have created a job shortage in Germany, and competition for available positions back home is fierce. “It’s quite hard at the moment, even if you have several degrees, to get a job,” Heyland said. He told the story of a friend who works in human resources for Adidas, the global sporting good scompany headquartered in Germany. For each open position, Heyland said, Adidas receives as many as 1,000 resumes. Heyland explained that changes in the European political landscape have made it easier for German companies to outsource jobs to countries with cheaper labor in Eastern Europe, or lower taxes in Austria. Like American automakers who have moved plants south of the border to Mexico, BMW now manufactures many of its parts in Eastern Europe, where they can pay pennies on the dollar for labor. And in a country where the most abundant natural resource is engineering technology, the loss of manufacturing jobs has had a devastating effect on the economy. Heyland said that an internship in the United States will give him an edge in the German job market, and he hopes to secure a job in financial services management when he returns. The internship program is the brainchild of Chris Lamb, Executive Vice President at Energy First Credit Union. Lamb answered an inquiry from the California Credit Union League in 1999, which had received offers of interns from Germany after American banks had refused. She got the green light from Energy First’s Vice President of Human Resources, Mary Lo-Samrick, to recruit two interns. Lamb was impressed with their ability, and credited the German educational process, which produces an older, more mature intern who can handle more complex assignments. Although Lamb’s current position is located in the Los Angeles area, she maintains a home in San Diego, where the interns stay for free with Lamb’s husband and have access to the couple’s extra car. Because the interns were living in San Diego, Lamb said finding a credit union in San Diego was a natural progression. After two years of hosting the interns at her credit union, Energy First CEO Lynn Bowers contacted colleague Janet Madden, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Development at Mission Fed, and convinced her to provide future interns with a local position. Mission Fed has since hosted three interns, and has already agreed to host another intern next February, in the Marketing Department. Heyland finished his internship at Mission Fed June 30, and is currently traveling the United States before returning to Germany to begin his job search. -

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