A new group of Virginia Tech students will get an exceptional opportunity to learn about bank lending and risk management and gain actual experience as loan officers as the Credit Corps program kicks off its second year with an additional partner, First Bank & Trust Company.

Credit Corps, launched in August 2019 with funds from the Virginia Tech Foundation and based in the Department of Finance, Insurance, and Business Law in the Pamplin College of Business, aims to enable students to enhance their skills in credit risk analysis, business analytics, portfolio management, and teamwork.

The program operates as if it is in a loan syndicate led by the partner bank that provides funds to the borrower, said finance professor George Morgan, who led efforts to develop the program. The program’s partner in its inaugural year was Atlantic Union Bank, which offered Credit Corps actual loans to consider for participation, and continues to be actively involved as a partner bank this year.

“Credit Corps is excited to include a bank of the stature of First Bank & Trust Company in our partnership program,” said finance professor Fred Hood, who serves as the program’s faculty advisor. Partners bring substantial value, he said, ensuring that  students have experiential learning opportunities and guidance from industry experts like those at First Bank and Atlantic Union.

In addition, students will also gain access to case studies and workshops and to C-level executives and other senior managers at borrowing companies that agree to participate.

Such workplace-related experiential education, Morgan said, gives Credit Corps students a “substantial advantage in the job market, where credit knowledge and analysis skills are highly valued.”

Raleigh E. Hayter, chief credit officer and senior vice president of First Bank & Trust Company, said the partnership will offer the bank “a credit-savvy pool of candidates” for its internship and management associate program. “It is a partnership in its truest form and an example of the many benefits of bringing the education and business sectors together.”

As a Credit Corps alum, Tracy Christensen can attest to that. Christensen graduated in May 2020 and went to work for First Bank, where she is currently undergoing management training.

“My participation in Credit Corps absolutely assisted me in landing my role with First Bank,” said Christensen, who, while a student, was invited by Morgan to participate in a meeting with a First Bank representative to discuss the potential partnership.

Moreover, “the experience I gained from my time in Credit Corps has helped me in my daily work and is even more relevant now that I am into the credit analysis piece of training,” she said.

Elaborating, Christensen said a prerequisite for joining Credit Corps is the completion of a credit analysis course at Virginia Tech as part of earning certification by the Risk Management Association. “The concepts and principles learned in that class are then applied to underwriting the deals offered by participation banks. We had the opportunity to prepare financial statements, including income statements, balance sheets, debt amortization schedules, and sales projections. These topics are exactly the curriculum being covered in my training at First Bank.”

Credit Corps, launched with a commitment of $2 million over four years from the Virginia Tech Foundation, is modeled after SEED and BASIS, two programs established years ago with funds from the foundation, to give students hands-on experience in stock and bond investing.

Sukie Zhang, a finance senior and a BASIS member, joined Credit Corps for the opportunity to be “part of something new and learn another set of skills.” She discovered she could apply the financial and credit analysis skills she gained at BASIS to Credit Corps for analyzing loans.

Sukie Zhang
Sukie Zhang

“What really stood out to me during the process, though,” she said, “was that the deal team was able to conduct the due diligence process much like a real loan participant would. We visited the company’s facility, met with the CEO, CFO, and other executives, and asked questions about the company in depth. It was a unique experience that only Credit Corps could offer.”

Zhang, who has already landed a full-time position at an investment bank, said the program would distinguish a student member in the job hunt. “It is a pioneering platform that recruiters will remember.”

Zhang left Credit Corps in spring 2020 to serve as co-CEO of BASIS but is now back as Credit Corps’ undergraduate teaching assistant. Her role includes helping finance professors Hood and Morgan to improve the student experience through such initiatives as establishing web-based platforms for more efficient team work and knowledge storage, organization, and sharing.

A capstone in the finance major’s risk management and banking option, Credit Corps requires core courses in investments, corporate finance, fixed-income securities, credit-risk analysis, and advanced modeling and business analytics, in addition to elective courses. Before they can be considered for Credit Corps in their senior year, students must earn certification from the Risk Management Association.

The program started with three students in fall 2019 and five students in spring 2020. It has five students this fall.

Read more about Credit Corps here.