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published on June 23, 2021 - 1:28 PM
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Cen Cal Business Finance Group is making moves in the community while paving the way for the next generation of bankers through an internship program.

Cen Cal is a Fresno nonprofit that does Small Business Administration loans for owner-user real estate transactions. The company has been around just under 40 years, and Executive Director Frank Gallegos has been running operations for the past seven years.

He welcomed his first intern in fall 2014.

“It’s beneficial because there’s a lot of bankers in our community that are going to be retiring in the next 10 years. So it gives the local banks a little bit of an inventory of young people who might be interested in going into banking,” Gallegos said.

Students shadow Gallegos while he does banking and attends board meetings. They also research sales leads.

“There’s nothing that we hide from them,” Gallegos said.

Interns are exposed to partners that Cen Cal works with, and many work with micro loan officers. Often they start and continue about 80% of the loan write ups for micro loans of around $25,000. The process includes calculating numbers and interviewing the clients.

“Even though it’s a $25,000 or $50,000 loan, they’re part of the process,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos has been in banking since 1987, and he said, “One thing I didn’t do myself was an internship when I was in school.”

“I always thought internships were a good idea. They just weren’t as common when I was in school,” he said.

When he became the executive director at Cen Cal, he thought it would be a good opportunity for the company to offer an internship to expose college students to banking and finance.

Interns are required to complete 150 hours per semester or over the summer, allowing up to three students per year to complete an internship under with Cen Cal.

Gallegos said it’s been beneficial because he has a pulse on what younger people are thinking, and he also feels it’s a service to the community. It can also develop a stronger workforce in the future.

Fresno gets hit with what Gallegos referred to as the “brain drain,” where talent generated in the Valley leaves because students don’t find or know about opportunity in their given fields.

But in the mid-‘90s, he was a board member for an auxiliary group at what is now the Craig School of Business. He and his group developed the idea of a required internship for Fresno State’s business students.

Gallegos said internships are valuable even if students don’t know what career path they want to take. Cen Cal has had a couple interns that went in a completely different direction after interning, discovering it wasn’t a good fit for them. But Gallegos said that’s still a success.

Most students come from Fresno State, but they’ve also helped students from Fresno Pacific University, and several from across California.

One previous intern, Alec Antenucci, worked at JP Morgan Chase, and now he is an investment banker at Credit Suisse.

Antenucci grew up in Fresno and went to college at USC. He returned home for the summer in 2016 and interned with Gallegos.

“He liked the idea of getting current college students to intern and just helping them with their career, and I think it was super valuable to me,” Antenucci said of Gallegos.

He believes the program delegated responsibilities well.

“It’s tough to kind of trust a college kid to help out, so I really appreciated that they were able to give me responsibilities and have me help out,” Antenucci said.

He recounted when Gallegos sent him to the Small Business Administration’s seminar, which taught small business owners how to start a new company and put a business plan together.

“He, one, thought it would be a good idea for me to go to learn myself about that kind of information. And two, to meet any prospective people that were looking for a small business loan,” he said.

He ended up meeting someone there who was looking for some capital. He brought the client to Gallegos, and the client’s need was a perfect fit for Cen Cal’s services.

“To do that and get that experience as an intern and still be in college was pretty fantastic,” Antenucci said.

He said it was valuable to have finance experience on his resume before entering the workforce after college.

Antenucci said that he got one-on-one time with Gallegos, and for a finance-related degree it’s helpful to have relevant experience in the field while attending college.

“It’s still something, years later, that I’ve been able to reference and talk about what I did there,” Antenucci said.

“He’s someone that really cares about your development and I think he goes the extra mile and puts in the time to really help you out,” Antenucci added.

Chase Duran, senior analyst at MetLife, lends agriculture loans and was a previous intern with Cen Cal. He valued the networking component of the internship.

Building relationships has helped him get the job he wanted, and he said he gained a tremendous amount of experience.

Duran and Antenucci both grew up playing sports, and Duran said it was difficult to shift from athlete to career mentality.

“You come to that realization — for me it was in high school,” Duran said.

After changing his major a few times, he eventually chose the finance path at Fresno State and credits Gallegos to finding his next step in his career.

He interned his senior year of college, and through Gallegos, Duran learned of the different career paths he could take with his degree.

Gallegos said that although the finance company is not limited to choosing only athletes, they carry a similar quality — drive, competition and hard work.

Gallegos said it’s a responsibility to give back to the community while preparing the next generation of bankers.

“Like a lot of businesses, we have a somewhat of an aging population in the workforce for bankers, so this gives us a little bit of an ability to sow the seeds for the future bankers,” Gallegos said.

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