For the past ten weeks, I have been blessed with the opportunity to intern with Farm Credit Services of America (FCSA). Today, as I spend my last day at the office , I am reflecting on how fast this summer flew by. It’s amazing to think how much more I know now about agricultural financing and the company itself than I did just three short months ago.
To my great delight, this internship fulfilled my overarching goal- to dispel any doubts or uncertainties, and to confirm that Farm Credit Services of America, the dream job of my high school aspirations, is truly a place I could see myself being a part of. Whether I land a career with FCSA fresh out of college or a little ways down the road, I hope that my final week here is only a “see you later” rather than a “goodbye.”
For my readers who are unfamiliar with FCSA, the following fun facts will give you a little deeper understanding of who the company is. For my readers who have been with the company for 25 years, maybe this can be reminder of just how good you have it.
The largest agricultural financial services company in the Midwest and the largest crop insurance agency in Iowa, Farm Credit Services of America is a massive cooperative that pays out annual dividends to all of its customers. Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, its 42 locations are sprinkled throughout Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.
FCSA’s conservative credit standards in the good times and the bad have built a sound lending institution that farmers can trust to finance not only their operations, but also those of future generations. 2014’s net income of $514.6 million was over double what it was in 2008. Amazingly, Iowa farm operations comprise a third of FCSA’s $21.3 billion in total assets.
According to the Des Moines Register’s 2014 Iowa Top Workplaces report, FCSA is the #1 midsized company employer. That wasn’t the first time FCSA made the top workplaces list, either.
After being a part of FCSA for the past ten weeks, I scribbled out a top ten list of some of the biggest advantages and perks that FCSA has to offer its employees. All of the quotes came from the following Des Moines Register article/video which interviews Jim Knuth, senior vice president: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/2014/09/21/iowas-top-workplaces-farm-credit-services/15564489/
In no particular order (although food is rather high on my priority list), here are the Top 10 reasons why working for farm credit services of America rocks:
I thought the infamous Freshman 15 was bad until I was introduced to the Farm Credit 50. They estimate that every employee will gain about 50 pounds by the time they retire. FCS is also code for fats, carbohydrates, and sugars. From taking customers out to eat, to catered lunch at staff and sales meetings, to the tempting break room snacks, FCSA employees dine like kings.
It’s obvious that the people who work at this company are passionate about their careers and the customers they serve. I met a lot of people this summer with plaques honoring ten or more years of service. Every one of them told me they would never dream of going anywhere else. Perhaps part of why everyone loves the company is because they all feel valued and respected, no matter what their role. “The company has worked to build a culture that’s open and welcomes ideas from workers and customers. ‘It’s not like we think good ideas can only come from three or four executive offices,’ Knuth said.”
3. Meaningful Work
“For us, it’s our whole culture and purpose. … We serve farmers and ranchers who are outstanding, salt-of-the-earth people who work hard every day to grow our food and feed the world. For us, who grew up in the Midwest, who grew up around agriculture, it’s not hard to connect to that purpose. It’s really built into our DNA. Many people have come from a farm, still live on a farm. It’s not something we do. It’s something that we really are. It makes all the difference.” -Jim Knuth
When I volunteered with Harlan FCSA team members at the Cass County Fair 4-H food stand, I got a Farm Credit T-shirt that proclaimed “I Love Farmers” along with the company slogan, Agriculture Works Here. Call me cheesy, but that cotton tee could easily be the most accurate message my clothing has ever conveyed. I love being a part of an organization whose sole purpose is to help farmers and ranchers.
Nearly every day this summer, I visited the farms of of many hardworking men and women across Southwest Iowa. No matter how hot, dirty, busy, or tired they were, these farmers always paused to shake hands and visit for a while. Senior Vice President Knuth understands the integral relationship between FCSA and farmers. “They’re part of our extended family because we’re a cooperative. They’re not only our customers, but they’re our owners,” Knuth said.
“We truly believe that no company is greater than the sum of its people.” -Jim Knuth
One of the first things I learned this summer was that each job role (financial officer, closing specialist, account specialist, appraiser, insurance specialist, customer service specialist, etc.) is not strictly confined to its own responsibilities and expectations. Everyone works together to ensure that a loan application transitions smoothly through each que in what I call the assembly line of credit. The insurance team and the financial officers must have a good understanding of each other’s products to answer customers’ questions.
Knuth emphasized that FCSA teammates all pull together to achieve goals and results. As a runner, I understand the balance between individual effort and working together as a team. Without teamwork, progress cannot be make nearly as quickly or effectively. Just like I enjoy being a part of my track and cross country teams, I enjoy being part of a team of like-minded individuals who care about each other and their customers.
Every mother in the office has expressed to me her gratefulness for FCSA’s flexible scheduling policy. Financial officers have an especially flexible schedule, since they spend so much time in the country with customers. They often work from their homes or vehicles to get the job done more efficiently than they would from the office. It’s refreshing not to be confined to a cubicle from 8 to 5.
“Teamwork helps add flexibility into the workplace — key to enabling employees ‘to really manage their work-life balance,’ Knuth said. ‘If you have a child who has a ballgame or a band performance at 4 p.m., we encourage you to go … because a work-life balance is so important for us all,’ he said. ‘We have a number of perks, but the ability for employees to truly manage their personal work-life balance — whether it’s a sick child, or a ballgame, or a parent who needs support. … We have a saying: Be fair to yourself and be fair to the company. We find they can care more for their families, and they care more at work. And that’s a win-win situation.'”
7. Pay & Benefits
….are some of the best. Loving your job is important, but at the end of the day, you need to be able to pay the bills and put food on the table. FCSA takes good care of all of its employees, including interns. From health insurance to company vehicles, the benefits reflect a corporate employer with a small-town atmosphere.
Growing up, I noticed FCSA’s support of youth and the community as a 4-H’er showing at the county fair. Every year, my siblings and I received food vouchers courtesy of Farm Credit to spend at the Pork Producers’ or the Cattlemen’s booth. Farm Credit sponsors the stall cards that I stapled above my chickens’ and pigs’ pens. They also bring drinks and donuts to either the weigh-ins or the auction. I smiled as I watched the thank you cards from Montgomery County 4-Hers flow into the Red Oak office this summer, remembering the days that I used to do the same thing.
4-H and FFA are just two small areas that FCSA supports. Every year, FCSA donates several million dollars to the following initiatives:
Hunger & nutrition
Young & beginning producers
9. Core Values: Honesty and Integrity
Knuth reports these guiding principles to be “completely understood and known throughout our company.” As a Christian, I believe that having a strong set of morals and values will not only honor God but will also be rewarding in your business life.
2 Corinthians 8:21 says, “For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.”
Proverbs 13:11 says, “Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it.”
This summer, the Information Technology and Application Development interns at the headquarters have been working their tails off to critique a new software tool for financial officers called Driveways. They would regularly contact those of us in the retail offices to bounce feedback on its performance from the FO’s. This is just one example of FCSA’s efforts to stay current. The tech support system within this company does a phenomenal job of eliminating the headache of fighting with technology.
“A growing company is a healthy company. And we continue to invest heavily in our future, and our customers’ future (especially with technology). … When our people see that, they feel like we can serve our customers, have the best products, and that makes them feel very satisfied.” -Jim Knuth