As part of their 2020 internship programmes for college students, two US-based ICMIF members combined to host a joint virtual session involving their CEOs and the interns.
Chris Hilger, President and CEO of Securian Financial, and Terry Rasmussen, President and CEO of Thrivent, participated in a unique Q&A session and breakout discussions with interns at both companies. Walter White, President and CEO of Allianz Life (a fellow Minnesota-based life insurance company) also participated, as more than 100 interns across the three companies joined the session.
The leading CEOs shared their insight into interns’ questions about careers, leadership, the financial services industry and more. Interns described the event as inspiring, energising, insightful, unique and impactful. They especially enjoyed hearing the personal stories and career advice from the CEOs.
Despite having to pivot quickly to create an all-new digital experience, Securian announced earlier this year that it was going ahead with a quality summer internship experience in a virtual environment. Whilst many companies in the USA had to reconsider their internship programs, Securian Financial says it is fortunate to be in an essential industry and was therefore still able to offer 41 interns meaningful work experience this summer. These college students had accepted internship offers before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and a desire to keep its commitments to them drove Securian’s decision to make the programme happen but in a very different way to usual.
Commenting on the session and overall internship at Securian Financial Jessica Gross, a financial reporting intern, summarised the valuable experience:
Career advice from the top
“You always learn a lot when you can talk with a CEO, and this event proved that. I found their career advice to be the most beneficial part about the afternoon – specifically, to be a continuous learner no matter your role or responsibilities. They pushed us to be curious about our work, always ask questions, continue learning new skills and always strive to improve the abilities we have.
Chris encouraged us to develop our weaknesses and run toward the challenges of that journey while being unafraid to fail. Terry reminded us that you can learn so much from your mistakes, and everyone will make them. Walter encouraged us to revel in being a beginner, enjoy where we are and learn as much as we can in the situations we’re experiencing as interns. He encouraged us not to be tied up in where we are headed, but to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.”
Industry collaboration is key
“I also learned how collaborative the financial services industry is. When asked about collaborating with competitors, the CEOs stated that they have a shared purpose of helping people and protecting families, which makes it easy to work together. The financial services industry is large and has many opportunities, so it’s beneficial for companies to work together and learn from one another.”
Facing challenges, opportunities and uncertainty
“COVID-19 has brought numerous challenges, and the CEOs shed light on how it has affected how they lead. They all acknowledged that it’s tough to lead in a time of so much uncertainty. With all the accelerated transformation that happened, especially in the switch to working from home, companies and their employees were forced to embrace new technology, be flexible and commit to lots of learning.
Change that would usually take months or even years to implement was taken on in about a week, creating new challenges but also new opportunities for collaboration and teamwork. This was difficult, but all three companies successfully continued serving their customers, community and employees during this uncertain time.”
A unique internship experience
“The panel is just one of the many ways that Securian Financial has made this virtual summer internship special. Through their creativity and innovation in this work-from-home environment, Securian created many events for us interns to grow, learn and connect. The CEO panel discussion is one such event that has helped me grow as a professional, student and person.”