AITE Branch, First County Bank Profile

Alexander Graf, AITE Branch Student-Employee, Commended Student in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program

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In September 2016, First County Bank opened a limited-access bank branch at The Academy of Information Technology and Engineering (AITE) high school in Stamford, CT. During the first year of the program, we have had the pleasure of working with many motivated AITE students.

In October, student-employee Alexander Graf was named a Commended Student in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program. Alex is a graduating senior at AITE and took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his experience working for First County Bank’s AITE Branch.

What were your initial thoughts about being a First County Bank, AITE Branch student-employee?
I initially heard about the opportunity from a couple different teachers of mine who suggested that it would be a good experience. I ended up applying and we began the training in August of last year. I was unsure, but once I met Sheila (AITE Branch Manager) and the training got underway, it was a great experience.

The experience I’ve had overall working at the Branch has been second-to-none. Unlike learning in the classroom it was great to have first-hand experience on how things actually work behind the scenes at a bank. Additionally, I learned about the different types of accounts that are offered and how they are beneficial. I learned a lot of things that they don’t teach in school – how credit cards work, 401(k)’s, IRAs and just the different types of accounts in general.

What surprised you the most about your experience in the financial industry?
As someone who is interested in finance, I thought I had a good handle on what I might experience. However what surprised me the most was how friendly everyone was. There’s a stigma of how the business world is tough and no one is really there to help you – at the Bank you’re not just thrown into a situation, the peer-to-peer customer service was not what I had expected.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to work at the drive-through window at Summer St. It was that experience that really surprised me, and showed the willingness of everyone to help and mentor you.

What’s a key educational takeaway from your experience?
That’s an easy question, “how to know what to do.” The most important thing I learned really comes down to how to manage money. I think that that’s really something important for us to learn, especially before going to college. Many of us will be taking out loans whether it’s through the government or privately-funded and if we don’t know how to manage money and save, we’re going to have a really tough time coming out of it.

How will you use the skills you’ve learned in college?
My next goal is to get an internship at a financial services firm in college. First County Bank is the primary experience I will use when applying for an internship. Furthermore, what I’ve learned about money management and the industry overall is irreplaceable. I look forward to also using this experience to help future classmates and friends when it comes to classwork or personal finances/money management.

What financial tip or lesson would you share with a friend or family member based on your experience?
“Know how to make your money work for you.” Make sure you save in a reliable way, don’t just put your money in a savings account and let it sit there. It takes self-control to be smart about your money but it’s important that you make your money work for you. Most people just aren’t aware or start too late when it comes to saving for retirement; it’s important that we start now and educate ourselves on things like compounding interest.

Alex is in the process of applying to college. He’d like to major in Economics with certifications in Finance and Business. Alex also has a passion for music, which he’d like to minor in wherever he attends school.