How the Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program sets recent graduates on a career path to success in banking - Blog Popular Bank
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02.25.2020 /

How the Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program sets recent graduates on a career path to success in banking

With its immersive and rotational design, Popular HR’s recently launched Associate Trainee program encourages recent graduates to engage in different facets of the banking industry.


The Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program
is a select, 10-month rotational program for top-tier recent college graduates that exposes trainees to the diverse lines of the bank’s businesses, operations, policies and practices. Trainees receive close mentorship from managers and advisors, participate in leadership and community activities and initiate specific projects and solutions for different business areas of the organization.

In our new Popular interview series, which spotlights different members of the Popular community, the inaugural class of associate trainees from the 2018 Associate Trainee program touch on highlights of their experience, including intimate exposure to cross-departmental challenges and successes. They also share insights on how the program helped them take important first steps to careers in banking.

Their responses have been condensed for clarity.

To learn more about how you can join the Popular Bank family and get your start, visit PopularBank.com/about-us/careers/.

 

Meet Our Associate Trainees

Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program - Laura
Meet Laura
Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program - Austin
Meet Austin
Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program - Andrew
Meet Andrew
Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program - Katia
Meet Katia

 

Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program - LauraMeet Laura Crother

Alumna, 2018 Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana

 

 

Laura studied finance and economics at the University of Alabama, where she credits her experience studying abroad in Madrid for giving her a “sense of adventure.” She later earned a master’s degree in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.

“Never content just staying still,” Laura became intrigued by the rotational nature of the Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program and joined its inaugural class of trainees in 2018.

Now a business analyst with the finance and strategic planning team, Laura shares highlights from her experience as a trainee, including lessons learned in workplace etiquette, the value of rotations and the advantages of an open-door policy.

 

What initial factors attracted you to the Associate Trainee program?

After graduation, I was considering other career tracks, but I wasn’t positive about what I wanted to do, so when I discovered the program, I was intrigued. It was the perfect opportunity to work with different business lines and help me figure out what I actually wanted to do. And the timing of the program is great. Others tend to be much longer, so you may end up in rotations that you don’t particularly enjoy for an extended amount of time.

 

Did the program specifically relate to, or draw from, what you studied in college?

I majored in economics and finance, so the program related very closely to my college majors. It was very enlightening to see what I learned in college be applied to real-life situations. The program made me appreciate how important finance is in people’s everyday lives.

 

Can you share any specific projects that you worked on as a trainee? How was the work engaging or impactful?

The work was very hands-on. Once you were assigned a project, it was yours to take in any direction you saw fit. The freedom they allowed kept me engaged and allowed me to get creative, in what some might think of as a “noncreative” field.

One of my projects focused on Popular’s commercial credit cards. At first it was difficult, and you feel sort of stuck, but then the breakthrough happens. You start talking to the right people and looking in the right places, and you begin discovering things that no one else in the bank even knew. We gathered financials, market data, figured out the workflow of the product and the areas of improvement. We worked with a lot of different people to figure this out–the branches, Miami and Puerto Rico offices and outside information as well. It’s a pretty cool feeling when you have the opportunity to [inform executives] in the bank.

 

What was the best part of the program?

The exposure to senior management. They have an open-door policy. To have the opportunity to present to company executives is rare, so take advantage of it!

I was also constantly learning about new departments and meeting managers and team members. I really enjoyed the opportunity to rotate through so many different teams. The connections you make across different teams in Popular throughout New York, Miami and Puerto Rico are very helpful. The program provided plenty of guidance, but also gave us the opportunity to work and lead within a group and as an individual.

 

Were there any key takeaways or surprising lessons learned from your experience?

Workplace etiquette. It sounds simple but it is very important to know how a business functions and all of the dos and don’ts of a workplace. The second is the banking industry as a whole, including the competitive landscape, profitability and the challenges banks face today. While many people view financial institutions [with ambivalence], Popular Bank is really looking out for every customer, and you can see that every day at work.

 

Why did you choose finance and strategic planning for your first role upon completing the program?

I chose the finance team because it is connected to every single unit in the bank and really helps you gain an understanding of how the organization functions. Four months in, and I’m still enjoying it!

 

Any final thoughts or advice you’d give to those considering applying to the program?

I really enjoyed the program, specifically, the opportunity to rotate through so many different teams. It provides a great opportunity to understand how a bank functions as a whole. In addition, the chance to present in front of executives and senior managers is invaluable. I would definitely recommend the Popular Associate Trainee Program to others!

 

Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program - AustinMeet Austin Parisi

Alumnus, 2018 Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program
Hometown: Briarcliff Manor, New York

 

 

Austin came to the Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program from Boston College, where he majored in finance and accounting and minored in philosophy.

“Hesitant to get pigeonholed within a niche business,” he learned about the trainee program through Popular Bank’s college recruitment efforts.

Now a portfolio officer with the bank’s commercial real estate division, Austin shares reflections on his year-long rotation in the program, and how it helped him step into his new career in banking with vision and confidence.

 

What initial factors attracted you to the Associate Trainee program?

As an accounting and finance double major, I considered a variety of different career paths. I did not want to be funneled into a specific career path. The Associate Trainee program was perfect for me. It allowed me to gain exposure to a variety of different business and support units within the bank. Going forward, I have a comprehensive understanding of all the bank has to offer.

 

Did the program specifically relate to, or draw from, what you studied in college?

I majored in accounting and finance and was able to utilize my studies to analyze segments of the bank’s financials and design products to maximize expected future revenue streams. I learned that while having a great educational background is extremely important, learning does not stop at the university level. Learning on the job is a vital part of professional development and the [program] challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone. It allowed me to expand past my studies and explore areas in marketing, operations and technology.

 

Can you share any specific projects that you worked on as a trainee? How was the work engaging or impactful?

The primary project that I worked on was for business credit cards, a product that management emphasized due to the opportunity to generate fee income. The product itself lagged in the market in terms of functionality and its reward structure.

[We were] tasked to grow the business line while mitigating Popular’s risk. I played a key role in developing the rewards structure, solving operational and servicing issues that have long plagued the bank and integrating various underwriting and fraud strategies. The trainee program granted me the autonomy to lead a business development project and implement my own ideas.

 

What was the best part of the program?

The contact I had with all the different units of the bank. Going forward, I have a deep understanding of all functions of the bank from the front office to the back end and everything in between. The ability to present my ideas as a first-year employee was also extremely valuable, and it stimulated my professional growth.

 

Were there any key takeaways or surprising lessons learned from your experience?

I learned how to analyze diverse data sets, communicate with a variety of different employees, synthesize information and present in a professional manner to senior managers. The work was truly collaborative and required cross-departmental communication to drive success. Ideas are always flying across the room, which brings excitement to the office.

 

Why did you choose to join the commercial real estate division for your first role upon completing the program?

I chose this particular team due to the client-facing nature of the job. We provide construction and permanent financing to primarily residential properties within the five boroughs [of New York City]. I interact daily with active real estate developers and investors while working to structure deals to meet the needs of our clients.

 

Any final thoughts or advice you’d give to those considering applying to the program?

What sets Popular apart is its commitment to professional growth and internal movement. There are always training opportunities offered to Popular employees. People work here for decades due to the ability to move quickly through the ranks and even across various business functions.

I would recommend the Associate Trainee program as it is a great chance to step into a role and make a difference right away. Popular values the infusion of [junior talent] and intellectual curiosity that the associates provide, and the associates are trained in a manner to one day [potentially] lead the bank.

 

Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program - AndrewMeet Andrew Dziedzic

Alumnus, 2018 Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program
Hometown: Saddle Brook, New Jersey

 

 

Andrew majored in mathematical sciences at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), where he spearheaded a year-long thesis project on the study of fluid dynamics. It was presented at NJIT’s annual Frontiers in Applied and Computational Mathematics Conference and later published in both the European Physics Journal and for the online library at Cornell University.

Now a data analyst with the bank’s newly launched customer analytics team, Andrew shares, among his other efforts, how he leveraged his research and analytical skills to enhance a Popular Bank credit card for commercial clients.

 

What initial factors attracted you to the Associate Trainee program?

The Popular Associate Trainee Program was a great opportunity to gain exposure to senior leadership and engage in different rotations throughout the program that would provide clarity into how a bank functions early on within my career.

 

Did the program specifically relate to, or draw from, what you studied in college?

[In college], I completed a project on computing financial derivatives, binomial trees, regression trees and various financial trading option strategies within a mathematical computer programming language.

I [also] completed an information technology internship [but] was not interested in an IT development program. I did want to pursue analytics and data science and found the associates program at Popular. I think there was a significant amount of analysis done throughout the program and rotations.

 

Can you share any specific projects that you worked on as a trainee? How was the work engaging or impactful?

The first project that we worked on and was tasked to complete was the US Customer Experience Dashboard. We were able to establish a connection from the branches to [our corporate offices] and gather all complaints, feedback, inquiry and issues relating to the customer. We then created a dashboard to visually display these requests and data points that were gathered. This dashboard is evaluated on a monthly basis and is actively capturing all statements from the branches in real time.

We were also tasked with analyzing, researching and recommending solutions to the Popular Bank Commercial Credit Card. This product had not been analyzed nor updated for over 10 years. We looked at all aspects of the product (operations, underwriting, financials and risk– credit, fraud, legal) to see what could be enhanced and improved.

Both projects required presentations to the senior management team.

 

What was the best part of the program?

Exposure to various lines of business and to senior management. I think the individual and group leadership was very approachable and knowledgeable of their respective areas within the bank. The feedback after each rotation, project and presentation was also effective and useful in understanding [my own] areas of improvement [in my professional development].

 

Were there any key takeaways or surprising lessons learned from your experience?

[Importance of] time management, communication, analysis, presentation skills and teamwork.

I would also describe the company culture as very open. It is easy to converse amongst all employees and all levels of management. There is a clear work-life balance structure in place within the organization.

 

Why did you choose data analysis for your first role upon completing the program?

The newly formed US customer analytics department is a small unit; it was an area that I was hoping to get into and am happy that the department was created. We will be leveraging new technologies and techniques to work collaboratively with the US marketing team to acquire more customers, reduce customer turnover and identify areas of growth and opportunity.

 

Any final thoughts or advice you’d give to those considering applying to the program?

I would recommend the program to others. Once you complete the program, I believe you understand how different components of a bank operate as one organization and the specific unit/department that the trainee wants to pursue within their career. A great kickstart [to] a recent graduate’s career.

 

Popular Bank Associate Trainee Program - KatiaMeet Katia Carrady

Marketing Intern, Summer 2019 Internship, Popular Bank
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

 

 

Katia joined Popular Bank’s marketing team as a summer intern in 2019.

A junior at the University of Michigan, she’s currently majoring in international relations and balances her academic pursuits in sustainability with extracurricular interests ranging from performing in an all-Latinx cabaret to consulting for TAMID, an on-campus finance club that supports Israeli startup businesses.

During her summer internship, Katia found ways to connect her passion for sustainability to the financial industry, something she “never expected from an internship. I found it extremely gratifying.”

In our interview, Katia reveals how her internship experience helped her appreciate the unique role the private sector plays in “helping the world become a better place.”

 

What initial factors attracted you to a summer internship at Popular Bank?

The process of selecting an intern[ship] felt very similar to that of picking a university. You make a decision partly based on a gut feeling because you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into. Ultimately, I chose to intern at Popular because of the culture cultivated by its employees. The work environment fostered at Popular is one of collaboration and experiential education, two values I hold personally dear.

From day one, the [marketing] team made me feel like my contributions were valued. I was given challenging projects that pushed me to expand my knowledge and step out of my comfort zone. I felt like I would be given the most space to grow at Popular, and I was right.

 

Did your internship specifically relate to, or draw from, what you’re now studying in college?

My internship at Popular fed and challenged my intellect regarding my [studies] in sustainability. My manager allowed me to work on the blog and write about topics that interested me. I took the opportunity to address the value of sustainable development to homeowners and commercial developers.

I never thought my skill set would be valuable for a large company. After my experience interning for Popular, however, I now understand that the skills I am gaining in college are universal and are equally as useful across disciplines. It is not so much about the specifics, but rather my liberal arts background is equipping me with the skills of how to think, analyze, draw connections and problem solve. I feel that I successfully applied my learnings from college to my time at Popular, which has left me with a greater appreciation for my educational path.

 

How was your work during your internship engaging or impactful?

The work I did was beneficial on multiple levels. First, I was given projects that related to my fields of interest, so I was able to make associations between my undergraduate studies and the financial world. Furthermore, I found myself intimidated by the work I had to do because I didn’t want to turn anything in that I wasn’t 100% confident in. However, as I progressed through the summer, my team helped me understand how most projects are a work in progress, and that mistakes are a part of the process. With their support and encouragement in trusting myself, I saw my work as no longer intimidating, but positively challenging.

The more tasks I took on, the more I wanted to work because it pushed me to be comfortable with uncertainty. That comfort, in turn, helped me produce work I was even more proud of. The fact that I was constantly learning while working made the experience all the more engaging. It was extremely gratifying to leave the office every day knowing I had learned something new: organization, attention to details, fusing creative and analytical skills, knowing how to sell a product to target audiences.

 

What was the best part of your internship?

Being trusted with responsibilities equal to those of any other team member.

I know how hard it is for companies to find tasks for their interns, but at Popular, I felt like I was delivering valuable and necessary work that benefitted the whole team. I loved being treated with the respect of a team member, not just an intern.

I engaged with other departments and upper management almost constantly. In general, upper management made me feel very comfortable in terms of reaching out and asking for help, advice, or just to chat. It was incredible to experience how truly collaborative and intertwined a company can be.

 

Were there any key takeaways or surprising lessons learned from your experience?

I came in with very little marketing experience. Now, I can speak to how intricate the [marketing] campaign process truly is. For one, it is not only the marketing team that is involved, which means there are various work streams for different departments that need to be in sync to achieve proper execution. Also, there is no black-and-white guide for running marketing campaigns. Each campaign process usually varies in some way. To thrive in such a field, you need to be patient and comfortable with surprises, skills that transcend disciplines and are equally important in everyday life. I have gained a new appreciation for marketing and its eclectic nature.

 

Any final thoughts or advice you’d give to others who might be considering an internship at Popular Bank?

[The experience] left me with a yearning to be part of the tight-knit, collaborative and supportive community it portrayed. Popular truly feels like one big family. The fact that the COO Manuel Chinea came to welcome us at the new hire orientation speaks volumes to this company’s culture of leadership. I feel like all I can ask for is a supportive environment that fosters personal growth and Popular is just that.

 

To learn more about how you can join the Popular Bank family and get your start, visit PopularBank.com/about-us/careers/.

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