You’ve probably heard of community banks before, but you may not ever have realized what impact they can have on the economy.
Four students at the Eccles School plunged into the unfamiliar world of community banking as they entered the Conference of State Bank Supervisors Case Study Competition, and they ended up beating out national competitors to take home the top prize.
Jenny Flatberg, Changsu Lee, Kurt Alan Moore and Brett Welker, under adviser Jack Brittain, studied the Bank of American Fork. Despite having no formal training in banking, they were able to win the banking competition and beat out the four other teams — all of whom came from universities with a banking school.
“The Eccles Experience is so amazing. Trust that, and trust what we’ve learned in order to move forward,” Flatberg said as she gave advice to fellow students in the Eccles School Podcast about the win. “First, trust the Eccles School, we have learned so much, try out, try to do this awesome case or any other Eccles Experience that you can do because you will learn so much more doing a project like this, you know you really get to put your schoolwork to use. And then second, gosh meeting with professionals, having access to professionals in an industry like this is such a unique experience. It has been great for all of us.”
The top prize includes a CSBS scholarship and a travel stipend to present the case study at the 2015 CSBS-Federal Reserve Community Banking in the 21st Century Research Conference, which takes place Sept. 30 – Oct. 1 and features Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Additionally, the students’ work will be published in the Community Banking in the 21st Century: Opportunities, Challenges and Perspectives yearly report that will be released at the research conference.
“CSBS established this student competition as a tool for highlighting the tangible ways community banks contribute to the economy and local economic development,” said John W. Ryan, CSBS President and CEO. “It is also a means to better connect the academic community with the banking industry and to help students gain a better understanding of community banks.”
Below is a podcast with three of the members of the winning team, and a transcript. Check it out to find out what the students learned, what advice they’d give to those interested in participating in the 2016 competition, and why it’s smart to take advantage of hands-on Eccles Experiences.
Congratulations to the winners!
Eccles School: Welcome to the Eccles School podcast. I’m your host Sheena McFarland. The Conference of State Bank Supervisors recently launched a community bank case study competition where five teams of undergraduate students partnered with area banks to conduct original research showing the local economic impacts of community banks. Joining me today are members of the competition’s winning team from here at the Eccles School; they analyzed the Bank of American Fork. Today, I am joined by Jenny Flatberg, Brett Welker and Changsu Lee. First, why were you interested in participating in the community bank case study competition?
Brett Welker: Thanks Sheena. I would first say that the initial email we got from Jack Brittain, who was in charge of organizing this, was very interesting. You could tell he was very engaged with it, and I wanted a project where the leader would be engaged with us and it wouldn’t just be thrown out at us and we would have no direction. I could tell that Jack was pretty engaged, especially after my first interview with him, and I knew that this was something I wanted to do. And then also, I would say that my family has a history in real estate and that was the focus on what we ended up doing with Bank of American Fork — focusing on what they did with their commercial real estate. So that really kind of struck a chord with me and my personal experiences growing up.
Eccles School: That sounds great. What about you Changsu?
Changsu Lee: Yeah, it’s a very interesting question. Actually, at the time when I started the Community Bank Case Study
Eccles School: Awesome. And what about you Jenny?
Jenny Flatberg: As an economist, I read that the prize was a trip to a Federal Reserve meeting in St. Louis and we would get to meet the Federal Reserve Chairwoman, Janet Yellen, and so wanted to participate; and I wanted to win right from the get-go.
Eccles School: That’s great, and it sounds like meeting Janet Yellen will be quite the opportunity.
Jenny Flatberg: I’m so excited. It will be such an honor.
Eccles School: That’s great. So tell me a little bit about what it was like to participate in the competition. Brett what was it like for you?
Brett Welker: Well first, it was a lot of work. There is a lot of scheduling, planning, organizing involved because our timeline was so short. So we kind of just made the best of it for the first couple of weeks trying to figure it out because none of us have banking backgrounds at all and all the other schools participating have a banking school. So it was a lot of work first off, but as we got going in the project, I think the thing that stuck out a lot to me was how we got to work with professionals the entire time. I think it was a great experience to see how banking professionals work on a day-to-day basis, how they interact with each other, how regulators work with bankers, just kind of the whole grand scheme of things. I think it was an invaluable experience.
Eccles School: Great and Changsu, what about you? What was the experience like?
Changsu Lee: Yeah. I would like to say that this wasn’t an easy journey. It took a lot of effort and time from all of us and we needed to get basic background information and do many interviews and after meetings and all the paperwork etc. And although it has been really a tough and hard journey making this project, every one of our members was very capable and responsible for what they had to do, and we never gave up, even under a tight situation. Also, very thankfully, every interview and our director were really nice and cooperated with us and gave technical help to our study. So overall, it was really uncommon and fantastic experience in participating in the CSBS.
Eccles School: Wonderful, and it Jenny, what about you?
Jenny Flatberg: Gosh, I had a ton of fun overall participating in this competition. It was really neat to have access to industry professionals and be able to speak so frankly with them. Everyone was so open with us. Because we didn’t have any experience in the banking industry, our adviser, Jack Brittain, was really responsible for co-researching with us and also introducing us to professionals in the industry, connecting us with the people that we interviewed and learned from and guiding us throughout the whole process. But also, part of participating in the competition was the amount of time and energy we all put into preparing for our interviews with professionals. And then, I was surprised at how much time and energy it takes to make a video — to go through all the hours of recorded interviews and figure out exactly which clips we wanted to put in the video and then on top of that, writing the paper, which took forever. It was so much work, we did so many iterations of the paper and just kept refining and refining and refining. So it was a ton of work, but it was so satisfying and really, really fun. We had a great time with each other and we worked really hard.
Eccles School: Sounds great. Well it sounds like there are definitely a lot of really, like you have been saying, a huge amount of work. So kind of tell me a little bit about what challenges specifically you were facing during the preparation for this competition and during the competition?
Brett Welker: I mean looking at the requirements for this, I don’t think it looked that difficult. It was a 20-page paper, 10- to 15-minute video and I’m like ‘OK, I have done stuff like this in school,’ but when you add it on to all of us are full-time students; we had jobs, we had other things going on in our lives. I think definitely the hardest part was coordinating our schedules, and it Jenny can speak a little bit about that. And then also, setting realistic timelines was very difficult in the short span that we had. I remember initially, we planned to finish everything two weeks before the deadline and then do the video because we thought the video wouldn’t take that long, and that was not the case, and we copyedited the paper a dozen times within the last two weeks and then the extended week that we got with the extended deadline. So those two things were definitely the hardest from my perspective.
Eccles School: Sure and Changsu, what did you find challenging?
Changsu Lee: Actually for me, it was time control because I was in my last semester in my undergraduate degree and doing an internship at the same time. Also, I needed to get ready for my finals and job interviews. And so, there was not much time for preparing this project. But I really wanted to do this well, so I saved my sleep time and just everything, since this was teamwork, not just me alone and therefore, I think that was the most challenging part of about the competition for me.
Brett Welker: And Changsu, he made this his number one priority. He would leave work and then go back to work and work overtime, just so that he could work on this project. So we all made sacrifices along those lines.
Eccles School: For sure. And Jenny, it sounds like you might know a little bit about this coordination of schedules and trying to get everybody to come together to find time to work together.
Jenny Flatberg: Yeah, we were all busy. So, working on a tight timeline, I think it required a ton of communication from each of us about what we were able to contribute and different aspects during different phases. And it also took a lot of self-knowledge for all of us, of knowing what our skills were and what we could contribute. So I think the most challenging part was each of us having a good understanding of our own situation and being able to represent ourselves honestly.
Eccles School: Well, excellent. Well, I’m glad that you guys overcame the challenges and were able to take home the top prize, I think that is amazing. So tell me a little bit about how you will be able to use what you learned in this competition in the future, either in your future education, and for those of you who have graduated and even those of you who haven’t, what you are going to use this for in potentially your careers as well.
Brett Welker: So there were a lot of aspects in this competition that I feel were useful, kind of for each of our personal development and our professional development. Some of the things we already have kind of gone over: working in teams, understanding our strengths, understanding how to make sacrifices for the end goal. I think hitting timelines was a big thing that we really focused on that could be applicable toward that. And then also, there is a lot of banking knowledge that will be applicable I’m sure to each of us. And for me personally, I plan on having some involvement in real estate in my future, and there’s definitely aspects of this project that are useful, that I’ve talked to relatives about that I could see coming up in my future.
Eccles School: Great and Changsu, now that you are in the working world, have you been able to use some of the knowledge you gained in this competition for that?
Changsu Lee: Sure. One thing I want to express from the competition is the leadership. For example, our advisor, Jack Brittain, he showed a lot of great things but I want to choose one thing — the leadership. He led us to finish and participate perfectly in the competition case and then, he allowed us to study, not only in school, but also in the home, like we can search, we can read the books and — for example like core reports and financial reports. So I would say, it is a really great asset for us which we get. And second thing is I have learned during the competition, is I was impressed by what they did during the downturn at Bank of American Fork workers. All the strategies and work they did were wonderful, for example, they made fund strategies and they made some plan and marketing strategy, too. So that is really helpful for me to develop my future I think.
Eccles School: Great. And Jenny, what about you?
Jenny Flatberg: Thanks for asking. I feel like because of what we learned from the bankers, that we worked so closely with at the Bank of American Fork, I will always have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the fundamental role that community banks play in our economy. They make financing available to the common person and they are kind of the only industry that does that in such a personal way. And so, I think understanding the interplay between the individual person and the massive professional world and seeing how important the personalness of that is, will affect me forever. I also feel like learning how to approach a huge topic like this for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, where they already know so much about this topic, and so for us to be able to drill in and find things that in our research that we felt could be useful to them for the purpose of helping the industry in the future, that was an incredible experience. And so, I think those two things: understanding the intimate role of community banks in the economy and learning how to really delve in and find important nuggets in what we were doing that we could pass on to the industry.
Brett Welker: And just to kind of go along those same lines with what Jenny was saying, I think it kind of worked to our advantage that we had no experience in banking because we didn’t just run to certain financial ratios that would “tell us” how the bank is doing, what their so-called health is. Because of that, we had a broad scope and we had an open mind, and I think that really helped our case and I think that really contributed to why we did well.
Eccles School: Excellent. Well sounds like you guys had a great experience. Changsu, is there something else that you wanted to add?
Changsu Lee: I just want to say like the financial ratio which the banks really did is kind of different what we learned from school. So yeah, it’s really great things we learned, and I would say I could learn this by reading about books or Internet, but this way is really different in the real world. So I could have a totally different insight about community banks.
Eccles School: Sure. And I know something the school really focuses on is kind of the Eccles Experience — where you get out of the classroom, you get to get your hands dirty a little bit and you get to see how the real world works, and I think that is great that you guys have been able to do this. For students who might be looking at the 2016 competition, what advice would you give to students who are maybe thinking about joining this or those who already have decided that they want to do it, what advice would you give?
Brett Welker: Number one, I would say don’t take it lightly. Give 110% because the knowledge is invaluable. Secondly, I would say be flexible, nothing is going to go according to plan; interviews are going to be rescheduled, your teammates are going to have different schedules, the information that you find might not be what you thought it was going to be. So be flexible and go in with an open mind so that you are not biased in what you are going to be doing. And lastly, I would just add to be the ultimate team player. You’re going to have people from different backgrounds who have different opinions on things or you might have disagreements, but at the end of the day, you are working together toward this big common goal, and the end product is really special. So I think being a team player and understanding that everyone’s opinion is valuable and everyone has something to offer really makes the process a lot smoother and a lot more rewarding.
Eccles School: Awesome, thank you very much. And Changsu, what about you? What advice would you give?
Changsu Lee: Just try for it and before trying this, if you are in the game, this project should be your number one priority because this really requires tons of work. So if you are willing to have a great experience in this area and want to learn more about actual fields this will be a great opportunity, and you can get many good lessons and studies. And you can’t learn this great example from books or school. So, I really recommend it, and don’t be scared to get started. Once you begin, you will see yourself improving gradually and steadily and then you can finally succeed.
Eccles School: Excellent and Jenny what advice would you have?
Jenny Flatberg: I think I have two pieces of advice. The first one is even — since we don’t have a banking school here at the Eccles School, it seems maybe intimidating to try out for something like this, but the truth is, we have all learned so much from being students here. And the Eccles Experience is so amazing. Trust that, and trust what we’ve learned in order to move forward. And I think the second thing is take advantage of being able to talk to so many professionals in the industry; it’s a rare opportunity. We’re just students. We could ask stupid questions, we could have stupid answers — you know we could not know much at all and it was just a rare opportunity to be in that position where we weren’t really expected to know and to just be able and just be able to ask every single question we could think of and really learn from the people who are doing the jobs what it is like to be out there in the world. So first, trust the Eccles School, we have learned so much, try out, try to do this awesome case or any other Eccles Experience that you can do because you will learn so much more doing a project like this, you know you really get to put your schoolwork to use. And then second, gosh meeting with professionals, having access to professionals in an industry like this is such a unique experience. It has been great for all of us.
Eccles School: Excellent. Well it sounds like some really awesome advice from all of you. So thank you so much for joining me today.
Brett Welker: Thank you Sheena.
Jenny Flatberg: Thanks for having us.
Changsu Lee: Thank you.
Eccles School: I am Sheena McFarland, and this has been the Eccles School podcast.