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Trine team advances in national banking competition

A team of business majors from Trine University was one of 20 to advance to the second round of a national banking case study competition.

The team from the Ketner School of Business was part of the sixth annual Community Bank Case Study Competition sponsored by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, a nationwide organization of financial regulators. The competition requires student teams to partner with a community bank for a case study, with the topic changing each year.

This year’s competition examined the impact of the Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering (BSA- AML) requirements on community banks. The organization plans to use the competition submissions to understand the challenges smaller banks encounter in their efforts to comply with BSA requirements and identify potential regulatory reforms.

“The judges had a difficult time choosing who would advance to the next round due to the stellar case studies submitted this year,” said CSBS Senior Executive Vice President Michael L. Stevens. “These students have conducted excellent case studies that will provide policymakers with great insight into how BSA-AML has impacted community banks.”

Trine University has been part of the competition, which is open to undergraduate students in all fields of study, for the past five years.

The Trine team was made up of Tanner Bennett of Columbus, Indiana, who graduated this spring with a finance degree; Austin Christie of Canton, Michigan, who graduated this spring with a sport management degree; Cody Dombrowski, a business administration major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Matt Lamson, an accounting major from Corunna, Indiana; and Kelsey Lounds, an accounting major from Waterloo, Indiana. Gregg Shull, adjunct professor in the Ketner School of Business, and Marek Kolar, Ph.D., associate professor in the Ketner School of Business, served as faculty advisors.

Trine teams have partnered each year with Farmers State Bank, headquartered in LaGrange, Indiana. The students visit the bank for an exploratory meeting with management team early in the spring semester, then spend most of the semester analyzing the bank as a part of their senior capstone project.

“We were originally looking for a bank headquartered in Angola, but FSB is a bit larger and a better fit for the analysis. It is very active in making loans across the local community it serves, and so there is a lot to analyze,” said Kolar.

The project stood out to Dombrowski among those offered in his business capstone class.

“It was for a competition, so my thoughts were that this could be a project with real meaning and help me understand real-life problems in finance,” he said.

Lounds, who wrote the section of the paper focused on bank compliance, said she read many banking laws and talked with banking professionals to gain insight into the challenges faced by the industry.

Like everything else this spring, the project became more challenging once COVID-19 restrictions forced the university to move to online classes.

“The most challenging element of the competition was communication, especially after COVID and we converted to online learning,” Lounds said.

“Taking everything about the project online forced us to adapt to the new normal,” Christie agreed.

“Everyone on the team really pitched in on each part of the project, whether deciding what direction we wanted to go, composing the paper, communicating with the bank, or editing/formatting what we had,” said Christie. “I feel we all furthered our knowledge regarding the topic of bank compliance and really put together a good product. Advancing in the competition is just icing to the cake.”

Lounds said their group found it can be very hard, especially for smaller community banks like Farmers State Bank, to maintain the rigorous processes required by the laws when no additional funding is provided.

“Additionally they must guarantee that ALL employees, regardless of their role, have undergone BSA/AML training to fight financial crime,” she said.

Kolar said the competition allows Trine students to practice and demonstrate higher-level learning skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation, as well as specific business-related skills including research, financial analysis, writing and presentation in the business context, teamwork and leadership.

“The competition level is high and more universities participate every year,” he said. “The fact that Trine students have been successful competing against teams from the entire nation, from a variety of small and large universities, in a competition that focuses on employing practical career-related skills, shows that our students have the highest level of preparation for a career in business, in addition to the networking and hands-on learning opportunities that we provide in our student-focused learning environment.”

The top five student teams, announced June 5, were from Concordia College, James Madison University, Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, Mississippi State University and Purdue University.