Business & Banking Students Cap Off Year With Simulation

By Garrett Shiflet Ι Daily Sun Staff Writer Ι May 5, 2023

Students with the Villages High School’s Business & Banking Academy recently put what they learned in the academy to the test.

They participated in an interactive banking simulation on April 26 at Citizens First Bank’s training facility.

“Students were split into teams, and we held head-to-head competitions to see who could run the most profitable bank all while keeping in check the mindsets of regulators, investors, customers and employees,” said Jennifer Sharp, the academy’s instructor.

The simulation, BANKdynamics, is a product of Olson Research Associates, Inc. It is a consulting firm that develops educational training programs for universities, companies and high schools, according to its website.

The teams competed alongside their assigned mentors by running their simulated banks, and they would be judged on their profitability and returns.

“With the clock ticking, students had to make choices on if they wanted to grow their banks, how diversified they wanted their loan portfolios to be, what profit margin and liquidity levels they were comfortable with as well as many other factors to consider,” Sharp said.

The competition was close, however, the team of Jose Andres Garcia-Arana, Joshua May, and Ricardo Mason Garcia were the eventual victors.

The competition serves as the capstone project for the seniors and their Financial Internship course with the academy.

Students rotated through multiple departments of the bank, such as customer service, lending, wealth management and investment.

Brad Weber, the executive vice president and chief lending officer of Citizens First Bank, said this year’s student were “fantastic.”

“We had a bright and energetic group of students who came in and wanted to learn,” Weber said.

Throughout the course, students work directly with a member of Citizens First and complete tasks as if they are an employee.

“It’s a true hands-on learning experience,” Weber said.

Weber said the partnership has provided a great opportunity for the bank and students.

“We are so incredibly fortunate to have the school that allows us to partner with them,” Weber said. “Our bankers, they look forward to having these students come in and work with us. It’s a teaching opportunity and learning opportunity. The bankers are very eager to be a part of one of those teams. It allows them to impart their knowledge to students who really want to learn about banking.”

It also can be a springboard for their first banking jobs.

“It allows them to understand the depth of what a bank actually does,” Weber said. “And hopefully when they graduate, they want to come back and work with us.”

And some students do — three former VHS students from the academy are employed with the bank.

Sharp noted the many lessons students can take away from the activity.

“This was a powerful and engaging learning experience, and they were graded on risk, return, capital and growth of their personalized banks,” Sharp said.

Seniors also will walk away with three certifications from their final year with the academy, including Communication Skills for Business, Professional Communication backed by Pearson VUE, Business Financial Management certification backed by the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute, and Project Management Ready certification backed by the Project Management Institute.