In a normal year, many bank interns begin their summer working at the teller line. This year is certainly not normal and Callie Dethlefs’ first banking experience was a little unique. She started her internship by handling Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan guarantee paperwork for Town & Country Bank in Ravenna.
Dethlefs, a junior agribusiness major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, planned to start her Ag Banking and Finance internship in May. After the university moved classes online, she headed to her parents’ home near Rockville. There, she helped her father on the farm, worked on her classes and continued her tutoring job with the Nebraska Athletic Department. An early-morning call from James Friesen, Town & Country president, changed her plans.
Like banks across the country, Town & Country was scrambling to understand and deliver the PPP to customers. Friesen recalled thinking, “We’re going to have to basically deliver this program as quickly as possible before the money runs out, while at the same time, we’re still trying to interpret the rules.”
He asked Senior Vice President Mark Ficek to take the lead on implementing the PPP. Michael Bauer, current Town & Country credit analyst, was brought in to assist. As the roll-out neared, Friesen called Dethlefs and asked if she wanted to start her internship early.
“I think it was 7 a.m.,” Dethlefs said of the phone call. She was in the bank two hours later ready to learn how to process the PPP loans.
This was Dethlefs’ first experience working in a bank. Friesen knew the tasks she would take on needed to be fairly simple and easy to teach. Friesen taught Dethlefs the ins and outs of putting the files together, creating the closing package and the basics of Town & Country’s loan processing software. “Within two hours, she could create the loan package we needed people to sign at closing and she was even researching business entity information on the State of Nebraska corporate information inquiry page,” he said.
On her first day, PPP applications were already coming in, so Dethlefs got to work right away. In two weeks, Dethlefs helped Town & Country Bank with over 120 PPP loan packages. “It was honestly a huge help to be able to dedicate her to that specific task,” Friesen commented. “She was absolutely a core part of that whole process.”
Dethlefs applied what she learned in professor David Aiken’s agricultural law class to research and verify business entity information. “She could even put together a draft resolution for these customers to review if we didn’t have that information,” Friesen said. Dethlefs also credits her agricultural finance class with helping her understand the loan process. “I really enjoy getting experience,” Dethlefs said of working on the loans.
Dethlefs balanced working full time at the bank and her classes. During the PPP application period, she needed to take an afternoon off to take a microeconomics exam. When she returned, the pile of folders on her desk had grown substantially.
Despite her busy schedule, Dethlefs appreciated the opportunity to help deliver the PPP loans. As a product of a small town, she understands how important the program is to rural businesses. “It’s nice to know these loans are helping these people out, especially during these crazy times when everybody is struggling,” she said.
Dethlefs will eventually make her way to the teller line. The teller line will give her an understanding of the core systems of the bank. Her internship will expose her many aspects of working in a bank like loan support and credit analysis. She’s already started working on internal appraisals. Later this summer, she will join loan officers on inspections. Friesen said Dethlefs will also assist with the second part of the PPP, the loan forgiveness.
Approximately 13 interns are working at Nebraska banks this summer through the Ag Banking and Finance program. Dethlefs has some advice for these current and future interns. She noted the importance of paying close attention during training. “If you miss one thing, then you mess up the whole thing,” she said. Learning from bankers with years of experience has also been a valuable part of her internship.
Friesen stressed the importance of an internship for career development. He noted that an internship like the ones offered through the Ag Banking and Finance program helps students understand how what they are learning in class applies to the real world. It can be an eye-opening experience he noted. “There’s nothing that brings something home to a person like actually having a connection with people who are impacted in either a positive or negative way,” said Friesen.
Banks who host an intern also benefit. “We’ve been fortunate to have young people come in who realize the bank needs something out of this too,” Friesen said.
For Town & Country, the internship program also led to a new employee. Michael Bauer interned there last summer. After graduation, he joined the bank as a credit analyst.
The Ag Banking and Finance program is a partnership between the NBA and the UNL Department of Agricultural Economics. Students in the program receive a scholarship and complete a summer banking internship. Since the program’s inception in 2006, nearly $800,000 in scholarships have been awarded to over 500 students.
The program is just one of the Nebraska Bankers Association’s initiatives to engage, attract and retain the next generation of Nebraska bankers.
If your bank is interested in being a part of this effort by hosting an intern please contact Kara Heideman or reach out to our NBA Communications and Marketing team at email@example.com, 402-474-1555.
Director of Communications & Marketing