Agribusiness Grads Can Bank on Jobs at Financial Institutions The Buzz


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 agricultural borrowers.

"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 also good.

Links

Agribusiness Hungry for Specialized Business Grads
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Agribusiness Career Guide
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