The Internship Experience: Christina Wright, MBA Candidate 2015 First Midwest Bank

Christina Wright

Full-time MBA Candidate 2015

Concentration(s): Finance and Accounting

Field of Work: Commercial Banking

Undergraduate Degree: BA in International Affairs with a minor in Economics

Undergraduate School: Northeastern University, Boston

Company and Position: First Midwest Bank, Credit Analyst / Commercial Lending Intern 

How did you find your internship?

I found my internship at First Midwest Bank (FMB) by attending the 2014 Spring Business Career Fair at UIC. I researched the Bank and various career/internship opportunities prior to attending the career fair. Based on my research and subsequent conversation with a Credit Analyst at the career fair, I felt that FMB would be a good fit. 

Did you receive any help from the Business Career Center in finding your internship? 

I worked with Jeff Wilson at the Business Career Center throughout the spring semester to drill down the companies I wanted to work for in the long-term. Jeff helped me narrow down this list and connected me with an employee at one of these companies. 

What factor(s) did you consider before choosing to accept your internship offer?

The main factors I considered were: 1) opportunities to gain new skills and knowledge; 2) job responsibilities; 3) opportunities for professional growth; 4) career opportunities beyond the internship; 5) fit with the organization’s values and culture.

What were your responsibilities at your internship?

My role supported the commercial banking team, specifically commercial credit analysts and commercial banking officers. I spread and analyzed financial statements, tracked servicing requirements, tested covenants, assisted with loan presentations, wrote prospect memos, researched new business opportunities, and sat in on sales calls with prospects. I had the opportunity to learn and analyze so many different businesses/industries and understand how the right loan structure could help a business grow. It was a lot of fun. I was able to apply what I learned in school and also learned a lot on the job that I've applied in my second year of school. 

What did you like most about your internship?

The challenges, exposure, consistent opportunities to own projects and learn new skills, and the people. Many of us have had internships where we were expected to do menial tasks (file, make copies, etc). My internship at FMB was far from menial. I had the opportunity to work on real projects from the very beginning. I was involved in high level renewals, new deals and business opportunities, and participated in higher level meetings. Not every internship offers you the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with Bank executives, but I had this opportunity at FMB. 

What was the most valuable lesson you learned at your internship?

It’s hard to pick just one lesson because I learned a lot in a short amount of time. Beyond all of the practical skills and knowledge that I gained, one of the higher level commercial banking lessons I learned was this: Simply stating increases and decreases in a company’s balance sheet or P&L doesn’t add any benefit to your financial analysis. In order to fully tell a company’s story, you need to be able to explain these increases/decreases. This seems straightforward, but when you can explain why a company’s gross profit margin decreased or operating expenses increased, you create a more transparent story about the company. It provides the Bank with a clearer picture when deciding whether or not to loan to the company, and what the loan structure should be. 

Did you have a mentor at your internship? If you did, what was the most valuable piece of advice you received?

I did have a mentor, and it’s one of the benefits of FMB’s internship program. The most valuable piece of advice he gave me was to ask questions, work hard, and take initiative. While this advice may seem obvious, it’s very specific to FMB’s culture. Interns and employees are encouraged to ask questions, and everyone is always willing to provide an answer. While other companies hire employees to do one job and one job only, First Midwest employees are encouraged to take initiative, own projects, and step outside their comfort zones. I met several employees who have worked at FMB for 15+ years in a variety of different capacities. Rather than lose valuable employees, the Bank has opportunities for professional growth that enabled many of these employees to stay and move up in the company instead of out to a different company.