Ally summer internships go virtual in wake of coronavirus pandemic
- Ally Financial moved its 10-week summer internship program online, consistent with moves of Bank of America, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Capital One.
- Ally’s virtual internship allows participants to focus on longer-term projects and network with senior executives on Zoom.
Sid Tummala is one of 124 college students who will begin a 10-week summer internship at Ally Financial in June.
But instead of going to meetings at physical offices, the third-year business student at Ohio State University won’t be leaving his home in Philadelphia. Instead, he will be monitoring communications on a corporate laptop and relying on Zoom meetings to connect with bankers. As the majority of Ally employees work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, the bank’s summer internship will be an entirely virtual program this year.
Despite the lack of face-to-face contact with employees, however, the virtual format will not hinder the program’s prospects for success, noted Tummala.
“You have to adapt,” he said. “With [digital] networking, there is a loss of that feeling of intimacy, but as long as you navigate it the same way as if it took place in real life, it would be about the same experience for the most part.”
Ally joins other large banks that are rolling out virtual internships or are considering such moves this year, including Bank of America, Capital One, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley. Internships are important talent pipelines for Ally and cancelling this year’s program was not an option. So the bank redesigned the program, with support from instructional designers.
This year’s program will emphasize independent learning and long-term projects instead of daily work activities, according to Kathie Patterson, chief human resources officer at Ally.
“Typically, we try to get our interns to do the day-to-day work, so their assignments would change; [now] each one of our interns will have a unique assignment,” she said.
Ally interns will work across the company, including within marketing, insurance, finance, auto, digital transformation and compliance teams. Interns will also have opportunities to work on big-picture strategies.
“It would be process improvement, or the way we do things, benchmarking, market analysis, and in some cases — like with my intern within human resources — thinking through what we can do to become even more digital during this window of time,” Patterson said.
Beyond deliverables, an important objective of the program will be to connect interns with the Ally brand and culture. In the absence of physical meetup opportunities, interns will meet with Ally employees through two primary vehicles: virtual employee resource groups and Zoom happy hours with senior leaders.
“Executives within their areas will host virtual happy hours and people can just sign up to join, and it’s more of a free-for-all chat,” noted Patterson.
Gwen Appelbaum, an assistant dean and director of the Career Resource Center at the University at Buffalo School of Management, said banks are well positioned to launch digital internships, since the industry’s recruitment efforts have already become somewhat virtual.
“I would say in some ways the banking industry is ahead of the curve, because so many banks, particularly the larger institutions, have been utilizing virtual processes in their recruitment for some time now,” she said. “This is almost a natural next step.”
The virtual internship program can also draw on lessons from the bank’s “digital and human” approach to customer relationships.
“We’ve been built for this,” said Morgan Cullen, a marketing specialist at Ally and former intern. “We were one of the first [banking] organizations without any brick and mortar locations. From our very beginning, it’s been in our DNA to be digital and to be able to adapt.”
“At the end of the day, I think it's def doable to have internships remote, but believe you do lose out on a lot of the "soft skills/experience" that would've come with it. To me, these skills may be even more essential than the hard skill experience interns come away with at the end of an internship.”