Saturday, June 25, 2022

Tomorrow’s leaders … today

By Jeremy Cowen
Vice President/Communications   

Bankers know a lot about investing.

Therefore, it should be of little surprise Oklahoma bankers continue to invest in the future of their own industry.

The Oklahoma Bankers Association’s popular Summer Intern Program will again be active in 2018 and is expecting a number of prospective interns from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to apply for positions. Importantly, the Program also expects a number of OBA-member banks to participate in the program by hiring those students for the upcoming summer.

After all, making their banks available for student interns is simply investing in the future of both the students as well as the industry itself.

“I would tell banks thinking of participating to do so because it’s our responsibility to make good bankers in the next generation, and the more banks that participate, the more students we can provide an internship and help their careers,” said Jerika Coffman, assistant vice president at Quail Creek Bank in Oklahoma City.

“It’s investing in our industry’s future.”

Coffman would understand. She’s been on both sides of the desk: as an intern at Quail Creek Bank in 2009 and currently as one of the bank’s officers in charge of working with the OBA Summer Intern Program and selecting an intern at her bank.

Her own internship helped convince her the banking industry was something with which she wanted to be involved.

Even more specifically, it helped her decide exactly the bank she wanted her involvement to be with.

“I got the internship and I loved it,” Coffman said. “I’m a little biased because I think Quail Creek Bank is just a great place to be and it made banking look good – it still does. I fell in love with community banking, just the family atmosphere around it – we really are a family here. I thought this was a career I would like.”

Coffman’s story has been repeated around the state as former OBA interns continue to transfer seamlessly into the state’s banking workforce, as well as move upward toward leadership positions in the industry. It’s no surprise many of the current up-and-coming bankers in the state are former participants in the OBA Intern Program.

“The Intern Program continues to provide a valuable education and ‘real-world’ exposure for future bankers,” said Janis Reeser, executive vice president/director of education at the OBA. “While most of the students are pursuing a business degree, several applicants from OSU will have strong interests in agriculture and agri-business. Banks in the metro areas and those in rural Oklahoma can provide a meaningful learning experience.”

One banker who certainly received a meaningful learning experience during his time in the OBA Summer Intern Program is Danny Seibel. Seibel, currently president and CEO at the First National Bank of Lindsay, worked as an intern at that very bank during the summer of 1992.

As a small-town kid from Hulbert in eastern Oklahoman, his positive experience at the community bank in the small, central Oklahoma community of Lindsay resonated prominently with him and ultimately helped him decide what he planned to do with his career following college.

“My heart wasn’t necessarily set on banking, it wasn’t where I was leaning,” Seibel said, admitting his ambivalence toward a banking career as a college senior in 1992. “I was a small-town kid so the internship in Lindsay worked out for me. Going through the program, it gave me experience you can’t get in textbooks, that hands-on experience and knowledge of the inner workings of banks.

“(The internship) ended up being the determining factor of what I was going to do with my career. At the time, I was interviewing with oil companies, but also with banks. I got a call out of the blue from the bank in Lindsey asking if I’d like to come back and work there. Being a small-town guy, I enjoyed the small-town atmosphere there.”

The enthusiasm Seibel showed while working at a smaller community bank is exactly what Coffman looks for now when evaluating interns for her own bank.

“I like to see enthusiasm, being interested, knowing what they’re getting into and having a little familiarity with banking,” Coffman said. “I also like to see they want to stay in Oklahoma as I like investing in our future bankers here. Since I’m at a community bank, I like to hear them talk about family, community, volunteering – everything important to a community bank.”

Whether the interns end up working at a small community bank in rural Oklahoma, or at a larger bank in Tulsa or Oklahoma City, one constant is assured: everyone will benefit from the experience.

“I would encourage students to do it, it’s extremely beneficial,” Seibel said of the OBA Summer Intern Program. “It’ll give them a taste of experience they can’t get in textbooks.”