Value Added: Georgetown's credit union, a boot camp for finance whizzes

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 7, 2011

The Georgetown University credit union reminds me again why I shouldn't have goofed off so much in college.

Here is where some of the credit union's alums have ended up: Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, First Manhattan, Barclays, Morgan Stanley, the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Procter & Gamble, and Harvard Business School.

The Washington Post is nothing to sniff at. But as I've said in other columns, I should have joined some campus club or done something to prepare me for life after school - even if it only taught me how to work a room at a cocktail party (which is critical).

The credit union's 105 student "interns" are hard-charging entrepreneurs, working up to 50 hours a week at what is essentially a nonprofit, student-run bank. They are familiar with financial terms such as basis points, net worth ratio and delinquency rate.

I couldn't balance my checking account when I was in college.

The credit union - officially known as Georgetown University Alumni & Student Federal Credit Union - has 7,000 customers, 60 percent of them alumni and 40 percent students. The institution has around $15.5 million in assets and $1.5 million in oustanding loans.

Last year it turned a $50,000 profit, although that is rolled back into the credit union, because no one takes any money. The credit union runs two ATMs on campus and pays rent to the school for its offices on the first floor of Georgetown's Leavey Center.

"With assets of $15.5 million and a loan portfolio of $1.5 million, you would be hard pressed to find anything like this anywhere in the world," said Georgetown senior Arjun Mehta, who at 22 is the credit union's chief executive.

The independent, student-run institution started in 1983 with a $100,000 investment from the university. The credit union had a scare when CapitalOne came to campus a few years ago, but it has survived and even thrived.

Overhead is almost nonexistent, since everyone works for free. The credit union occasionally pays for a group dinner, but that's about the extent of the tangible benefits.

The big payoff is intangible.

"The reason I got my job at Goldman Sachs was because I had the credit union on my resume," said alumnus Chris Villar, 30. "During interviews in college you're competing against thousands of other kids who all have impressive backgrounds, but the credit union gets you noticed and stands out."

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