Wanted: Full-time lending and business development officer for an
expanding, locally owned community bank. College degree preferred but not
required. Requires self-motivated, goal-oriented professional committed to
being a key participant in the success of the bank.
Position involves extensive interaction with customers and requires
excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Knowledge of regulatory
reporting a plus.
Also, a broad-based knowledge of agriculture is highly recommended.
Advertisements like this are showing up all over the Internet and in major
newspapers throughout rural North America. Banks, credit unions, and other
financial institutions are canvassing college campuses to recruit and outbid
one another for agribusiness graduates. Competition is so fierce that employers
occasionally sign students to contracts before they graduate.
"Financial institutions target agricultural graduates because they have
familiarity with the agricultural industry, effective training in business
management, and well-developed programs in finance, accounting, and related
areas," says Peter Barry. He is the director of the Center for Farm and Rural
Business Finance at the University of Illinois.
"Applied economics is often a focus with these programs, thus providing
graduates with a diverse blend of essential subject matter and skills."
The changing structure of agriculture and financial markets is forcing
farmers and livestock producers to seek expert assistance. Banks play a key
role in rural economic development by being active in business, industrial,
and infrastructure lending.
Since loans are the major source of income for banks, loan officers and
counselors are fundamental to their success, especially in rural communities.
To safeguard the bank investment and protect their client's livelihood,
loan officers and bank managers must take the time to become familiar with
the numerous aspects of crop insurance programs. They must understand loans
inside and out.
"A four-year degree is now standard for working in most agricultural finance
positions," says Barry. "An agricultural background is nice, but not necessary.
Much can be learned through undergraduate and graduate programs."
Banks need workers with knowledge of federal and local government subsidies,
or grants, that are available to help keep farmers in business during crop
failures, natural disasters and other catastrophes.
Other things employers look for are:
- Experience in various aspects of tax law to help customers make informed
decisions about different financial programs and loans
- Knowledge of farm real estate mortgages and rural housing
- An ability to provide technical assistance and recommendations
- Familiarity with agricultural bonds -- they represent a cost-effective
method of providing reduced interest rate loans to young and beginning farmers
Drastic price fluctuations and natural disasters often force loan officers
to find ways to restructure their customer's loans. There is a complex set
of procedures to follow in doing so. That means workers need compassion and
empathy, an attention to detail, and excellent communication skills.
Michael A. Mazzocco is the director of the food and agribusiness management
program at the University of Illinois. He takes a much more fundamental approach
when mentoring potential candidates.
"First, the importance of understanding the relationship customers have
with their money is very important," he says. "This requires at least some
time being spent early on in direct contact with everyday customers, not just
"This relationship is different for each customer and is quite unique and
must be respected. A good way to learn about it is a part-time job as a bank
teller, or a summer internship."
Banks and other financial institutions should continue to
be sources of jobs. Employment opportunities outside the private sector are
Agribusiness Hungry for Specialized Business Grads
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Agribusiness Career Guide
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