Cape Cod Five makes sure its interns stick around

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Dorothy Savarese knew Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank's internship program needed to be revamped when none of the participants actually came back to work there after graduation.

Historically, the $3.3 billion-asset bank had used the program to fill a seasonal need, as transactions spiked and full-time employees took vacations during the summer. That meant the bank hired college students often majoring in areas like biology or pre-med who were really just looking for a summer job.

But Cape Cod Five decided it had to be more intentional about the program if it wanted to ultimately create a talent pool from which it could hire. Last summer was the first year for its more structured internship program, and the bank is already starting to see positive results.

"We all know that for us to be successful as an industry, it's critical that we bring this current generation into the fold, to have them embrace banking as a way of serving their community and find that it's a fulfilling career," said Savarese, president and chief executive of Cape Cod Five.

Transforming the program meant first identifying meaningful opportunities for participants. Savarese wanted them to be exposed to different functions and to be able to apply their expertise on the job. Interns still work in areas where the bank needs extra seasonal help, like in the teller lines and the call center, but their experiences go well beyond that now.

Take Jordan Plummer as an example. She will be a junior majoring in marketing at Suffolk University in the fall. Based on her interests, last summer she was introduced to the marketing department, in addition to working as a teller. When Plummer returned this summer, she worked more closely with the marketing team, including organizing appearances of baseball players from a local collegiate league at Cape Cod Five branches.

"We are interns, but you feel like a young professional. You don't feel like you're any less than anyone else," she said. "They treat you with respect and give you big projects. It's awesome that they trust us enough to do those things."

The Harwich Port, Mass., bank refined its approach to finding and hiring interns, focusing on students who want to stay in the area and whose studies align more closely with banking. (Noting that she was a psychology major herself, Savarese added that this doesn't exclude liberal arts majors.)

To turn up the kind of candidates Cape Cod Five wants, the bank's staff networks with career development centers at colleges and attends summer job fairs at area schools, like Bentley University and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

The bank also added more structured activities so interns could socialize with each other and with the bank's leadership. Each round of summer interns is now greeted with a welcome breakfast with Savarese and a speed-dating-like event where they can ask icebreaker questions and network with senior officers.

Finally, the bank keeps in touch with its interns once the summer is over, which has been key to getting some interns to refer their friends and to return for another tour, said Laura Newstead, chief human resources officer. Her department sends holiday cards around Thanksgiving and thank you notes. Past interns who refer their friends to the program receive a gift card.

College career development centers often encourage students to try internships with different companies each summer, Newstead said. Cape Cod Five has tried to make returning to the bank for a second internship enticing by promising participants a different experience.

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This year its summer internship applications increased 14% from last year, to 193. The bank also hasextended post-graduation job offers to five of its 35 interns last year and eight of its 45 interns this year.

Cameron Santos interned both before and after the bank updated the program and noticed the more intentional approach. During his second internship last summer, Santos worked on a project rebranding the bank's ATMs, which concluded with a presentation to Savarese and other bank leaders.

Cape Cod Five recently hired Santos into its rotational development program after he graduated from Babson College in May. He credited his work on that ATM rebranding project with changing his views about a potential career in banking, noting Cape Cod Five had actually implemented some of his designs and ideas.

"The biggest thing is to stress that interns can actually make a difference and have an impact. That's huge," he said. "It's a very good feeling having your work and your value recognized."

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