RMA Portland Metro Chapter

Student Spotlight: Erik Svilich

Spotlight on Erik Svilich: Student at Portland State University.

Erik Svilich joined Cascade Credit Services, Inc in the spring of 2017 and is now a Senior at Portland State University. He is completing his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. Before joining CCS, Erik worked for Farmers Insurance for over a year while in school specializing in insurance for businesses across industries. He is an Eagle Scout, enjoys card games, loves any outdoor activity rain or shine and has an espresso hobby.

We sat down with Erik to talk about his involvement in the RMA Portland Metro Chapter, how he used his networking skills to land him an internship at a local finance company, and his advice for students looking to do the same.

So, Erik, you’re currently a student at Portland State University. What are you majoring in and what attracted you to that particular field?

I’m currently getting my degree in Business Administration at Portland State University with a concentration in Finance. Part of the reason I chose to attend PSU initially is that they’re very well ranked nationally, and their business program is well rounded. So, I am able to gain a lot of experience with other aspects of business instead of solely focusing on the finance part of it. In particular, I’m really passionate about personal finance. Accounting is interesting, but it is primarily focused on the past at what has already happened financially while I consider myself more of a forward-looking person. I believe my personality is more tailored to finance and its possibilities for the future.

Are you from the Portland area or did you move from out of state or from another part of Oregon?

I am from the Portland area and have been attending Portland schools since elementary school.

How did you hear about the Risk Management Association (RMA) Portland Metro Chapter and what motivated you to get more involved?

I heard about the RMA Portland Metro Chapter through the economics department at Portland State University. I’m on the email list for the department, and an email blast went out that said the first 5 students to respond will receive a free ticket to one of the RMA Portland Metro Chapter general membership luncheons. I had no idea what the RMA was, but it sounded interesting, so I responded.

The event I attended was the RMA Portland Metro Chapter’s annual Economic Update with John Mitchell in January. I really enjoyed the experience and the people I met at the event were nice and friendly. After talking to current working professionals about what they do for a living, I didn’t even know most of those jobs existed in the first place. I think this is a common experience for people my age going to school and trying to figure out what they want to do for a career. They want to get a degree in finance or accounting for example, but they don’t necessarily know what they can do with it.

After attending the John Mitchell event in January, what continued to drive you to attend more events put on by the RMA Portland Metro Chapter? What did you attend after that?

My second event was another general membership luncheon. I also attended a couple of the Developing Professionals events that are held at the Lucky Lab Brew Pub. They were very interesting even though the topics aren’t necessarily what I’m studying or directly related to my field. I like building knowledge in general, so I signed up to see what they were about.

Do you feel that those Developing Professionals events are helpful for those early in their finance or banking career?

Absolutely. It’s great exposure to topics you may not know much about and are related to your particular job or industry. If you’re looking to learn something new in a more casual environment, it’s a great way to expose yourself to different risk-related topics.

So now, you’re working for Rich Denman over at Cascade Credit Services, Inc, right?

Yes, that is correct. I actually met Rich Denman through one of the RMA Portland Metro Chapter events and was hired on as an intern for the summer as an examiner.

Can you tell me a little bit more about what you do there?

Cascade Credit Services, Inc offers collateral exams, which is like an audit but for non-CPA purposes, for collateral-based loans also known as Asset-Based Lending. I really did enjoy working for Cascade and Rich, so I made myself invaluable to the company so they would keep me on. And they did!

Since I am still in school, I do a lot of the assist work and smaller pieces of the exams. Sometimes I’ll do a full exam or I’ll just take one part of the exam and complete it to help someone else on the team. I also work on special projects for the company in regard to streamlining the business to make the whole process more efficient, or “lean” in supply chain terms. If we come up with a few workflows or processes that save an hour a day, that’s a couple months saved in a year per person in hours and that makes a big difference.

You were able to land yourself an internship through attending events put on by the RMA Portland Metro Chapter and you met Rich at one of these events. Can you tell me that story?

Sure, at the end of the first membership luncheon I went to, I was in a group of students talking with Robert Loffink and a couple others from U.S. Bank when Rich walked over and said something about how he used to work at U.S. Bank awhile back. He began asking all the students what their major was, and I was the only non-economics major there. So, we started talking about how he was primarily interested in finance and accounting, even though he also got his degree in economics, which I thought was funny.

He gave me his card and we talked for a little bit about what he did. The job Rich does is fairly complicated, so it’s hard to explain in just a few sentences but I followed up with him and gave him a call and we met for a casual coffee and informational meeting. He was interested in talking with me more about potentially doing an internship and so I followed up with him again to talk more about A) what it is he actually does at his company and B) how I can get hired on as an intern.

That’s so great. As someone who has successfully networked themselves into the Portland finance community, do you have any advice for students looking for similar opportunities or ways to get involved?

Yes, definitely. I help my friends with this fairly often. I treat finding an internship, a job, or exploring a career as a full-time job. Especially when I was looking for jobs myself. That’s the only way to do it. Otherwise, you’re not going to get anywhere within the time frame you want.

I personally would go to every single career fair the university puts on just to see who’s there and what companies are hiring and to talk to the recruiters there. LinkedIn is huge, it is where everybody looks you up. It should basically be your online resume. My LinkedIn profile and my resume are exactly the same verbatim and I always keep them updated. Put your resume online on Monster and Indeed when you’re looking for work with a link to your LinkedIn on your resume. I still get job offers every other week from recruiters on LinkedIn or from other recruiting firms that have my resume on file, even though I am not looking for work anymore.

Whenever I hear of an opportunity to network, it’s really important to me to attend and meet new people, see what they do, and get to know more about them. The biggest thing to know about networking is that you need to have a genuine and sincere interest in getting to know other people and what they do.

Many people approach networking or trying to find a job or internship completely the wrong way in my personal opinion. Going up to a company and asking, “Hey! Do you have an internship available?” is like going up to someone on the street, getting down on one knee, and asking them to marry you. You have to get to know the person a little bit first, right?

Hahaha, yes, I think that’s totally fair. That makes sense.

So, I really like to get to know the person more and learn more about their job whether or not it’s related to what I’m doing. You need to have a genuine interest in getting to know people and the companies they work for. What is their mission? What do they value? No matter what job experience you have, even if it’s just volunteer experience, you can always pull examples that are related from those experiences to what the company is looking for in a candidate or intern.

Thank you so much for your take on this, this is valuable information for students, no matter what industry they may find themselves in. I hear that you’ll be continuing to work with the RMA Portland Metro Chapter and that you might be on the board next year, helping out with one of the committees! Can you tell me which committee you might be focusing on or what you plan to contribute next year?

Sure, I’m currently helping Robert Loffink with the Academic Committee. We’re trying to get more students involved in the RMA Portland Metro Chapter. Ideally, I would really like to start a volunteer mentorship program with students and members of the RMA community. RMA Members could devote time, maybe once a month or every other week, to sit down and have coffee with students to give them advice and answer their questions about a career in banking and finance. I’m hoping this will help connect members of the RMA with students on a personal level and professional level.

It’s a huge current issue especially in the risk-management and banking industries that there are not enough young people to fulfill the jobs of those moving into retirement or moving up into management positions. There’s not the infrastructure for training and there’s not an interest in those jobs because many students don’t even know they exist. I’ve seen so many great and interesting jobs being done by people in the RMA, and students should know these opportunities are available. Schools don’t offer much information about the current job market, so I would love to start bringing in more students on a rotating basis and getting them involved in the RMA Portland Metro Chapter and with members of the RMA community.

Thank you so much Erik! We appreciate everything you’re doing to help connect current banking and finance professionals with students.