In response to growing concern over the industry's aging work force, the National Credit Union Administration is launching a nationwide initiative to recruit the next generation of credit union executives.
"Blueprint for 2020: A Plan to Strengthen the Future of Credit Unions" seeks to establish internships for graduate and undergraduate students at university-affiliated credit unions across the country. The NCUA is counting on the initiative to encourage students to enter the industry upon graduation.
"This is about talent development. This is about responding to demographic trends, and … it's about making sure that America's financial marketplace remains competitive," Rodney E. Hood, the NCUA vice chairman who established the initiative, said in a recent interview.
The NCUA is not the only regulator trying to push youngsters toward careers in financial services. Federal and state banking regulators, expecting massive turnover as baby boomers start retiring in the next few years, have been beefing up their recruiting efforts in hopes of developing a new crop of examiners.
Bankers, too, are anticipating staff shortages — especially among lenders — and more of them are developing formal training programs. Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc. in San Antonio, for example, runs a pair of 10-week training sessions each year for recent college graduates at its in-house university.
The NCUA's initiative is a response to both demographic forces and students' changing tastes.
Mr. Hood said that when he graduated from the University of North Carolina, many students sought entry-level positions on Main Street or Wall Street in accounting, risk management, marketing. These days, he said, students are looking at private equity or hedge funds.
"If this trend continues, we could find ourselves at a deficit when it comes to having leaders in financial services," he said.
Mr. Hood hopes that by establishing internship programs at the roughly 450 university-affiliated credit unions in the country, he can help to reverse this trend.
The internships could be structured any number of ways, he said. For example, marketing students could create advertising campaigns for credit unions, or teams of graduate students could take on the role of business consultants.
Some credit unions, such as Campus Federal Credit Union in Baton Rouge, La. (which is affiliated with Louisiana State University) and Duke University Federal Credit Union in Durham, N.C., already have internship programs in place. Mr. Hood said he hopes to use the knowledge gained from such programs to construct a template for a nationwide program.
To that end, he has convened an informal study group, led by Campus Federal's chief executive John Milazzo, to generate a list of best practices that the NCUA's program should adopt.
Campus Federal has been offering paid internships for college credit to LSU students for the past 15 years. The programs instill interest in the students in pursuing careers at credit unions after they graduate, Mr. Milazzo said. "And it also gives us an opportunity to see the caliber of student and perhaps offer them a position when the time is appropriate to do that."
Duke University Federal Credit Union has had a similar internship program for roughly 10 years. Lee Fogle, its CEO, said the NCUA's initiative could deepen the talent pool. "We have to have an influx of talent into the industry, and I'm not sure we have a direct feeder right now," he said.
Mr. Hood said that he expects to have a template for the national plan ready by the first quarter. He also said he intends to share it with all sectors of the financial services industry.
"There is no reason why this would not be applicable" to banks and thrifts. Mr. Hood said. "This is not just for one sector. It is for the whole financial services arena."