Company Interview: GE Capital

Company Profile

Company Name:
GE Capital
No. Employee:
Approximately 1,490 (for GE Japan, as of June 2012)
GE Capital:
Clark Griffith (CG), Managing Director, Structured Finance
Saori Yamanaka (SY), Vice President, Strategic Sales & Marketing, Structured Finance
TUJ Interviewer:
William Swinton (WS), Director, International Business Program

WS How did you get the idea of internships?

CG Personally, I'm a big fan of internships. As a student myself, in my junior year, I had taken a semester of Japanese and there was a little poster on the wall about an internship available through the San Diego and Yokohama sister-city relationship. I applied and, to my surprise, I learned that I was being placed in Kirin Beer's Yokohama factory for a 2-month internship. It was 1989, the bubble economy was at its peak and that internship woke me up and changed the course of my life. Because of the wonderful experience I had here and at Kirin, I went back, postponed graduation, minored in Japanese language, and leveraged the relationships from that internship to get my first position out of university, which was at Sagami Railway Company, also in Yokohama. It really changed the course of my life. I hope we can give our interns a business experience that can change their life for the better and help them decide what they want to do with their future.

WS What is your impression of the students you have seen so far?

SY Everyone is different, but I am quite impressed by the diversity of the group we are getting from your school.

CG There have been 12 nationalities represented from Temple.

SY It's a quite diverse group. They are always excited and very eager to work. It is a really good energy for the entire team. Of course, it depends on the student. They have different styles. Some are very passionate and eager. I really enjoy working with them.

CG You have a short period of time to determine the skill set and the styles of the students and quickly adapt your management style to them to get them to produce. So it's refreshing to watch and follow up on. One thing I enjoy is watching the academic mindset transition to a business setting. We just had this, where we gave two of the students a task to do some industry research. And they're running all over, following this Porter's 5 Forces System. We understand that's an important part of the curriculum, but you also have to step back and say, okay, what's the outcome of this study we're doing? Five forces, yes, if you're doing a start-up and starting your own business, that's perfect, but let's adapt that methodology to the task at hand.

So to watch them have one of their coveted academic learnings, not critiqued, not criticized, but realize, maybe we don't have to take that approach. So they learn to just step back and go to a practical approach, which is a huge transition to prepare them for the real world.

That I love to see. Because I think they are one step ahead of everyone else when they go out for interviews for a real job. And on the first day of the job, they're ahead.

WS What do you expect from the interns during the first weeks of the internship?

CG I tend to let the students develop the expectations by gauging my first impression. So, after meeting them and making some first impressions, I give them our introductory training to gauge how they are reading whether they are interested. That way, you see who's really interested in finance and who is willing to work hard, but just here to still figure what they are going to do with their life. And then, I start giving them deliverables and see how they come back. And it becomes very clear.

WS How long does it take before you can realize who is going to be a strong contributor and who is going to be tasked with more of the softer research?

SY I would say it takes two weeks.

And, depending on our demand, the language requirements vary. Our team is sometimes quite busy with a deal underway; then we really need Japanese capability. Sometimes we are really focusing on analysis and can just get by with English. So it depends, but we focus on quality.

CG And then, it's just about attitude. Who wants to work hard. Who really wants to make an impression.

SY In addition, I look for the ability to pose the right questions. What I mean by is, don't just ask right away, but put some thought into it in the context of your own project or agenda. Then, you can google it and look it up. If you still don't know the answer, you can always chat with your peers. If you still don't know the answer even after that, then, that's the right time to come to me or Clark. Even in the interview, I look at the capability of asking the right questions.

WS You don't expect them to know everything coming in the door, but you expect them to use their own resources.

SY Of course, I want them to ask questions, but it's a balance.

WS How are they fitting into your team?

CG We're a small team within a big company here. They are confined among our 20 or so people and that is a very intimate setting. So, it's very easy for them to get quickly assimilation in the local office. Then, we get them out and walk them around to introduce them to people in the other offices. They have to do three executive interviews, so I try to introduce them to people who are a good fit. That's the way they get outside of our office.

SY Because of the way our projects go – if it involves risk or underwriting support, they will be exposed to the risk team a lot. If we are helping with a prospecting targeting project, then they get exposure to the originators and sales staff. We also arrange lunches and sometimes dinners to get them exposed to other program people, like the Financial Management Program (FMP) or Risk Management Program (RMP).

CG Yamanaka-san is a former program person at GE – one of the fast-track management programs. And she supports the other programs as well by having contacts with these people across the company. So we are very happy that one of the Temple students was selected to join the FMP program, which is an elite program at GE. Most of the GE senior management comes from this program.

SY Including our CEO at GE Capital.

CG Yes, and it is equivalent, internally at GE, to an MBA. So, while you're at GE, completing this program means an MBA. Even externally, the program is very well known, so it is a huge plus on their resume to have this FMP. One of your alumni has successfully been accepted into this program in Europe, thanks to Yamanaka-san's support. It just shows how much she cares and supports the process.

I hope that Temple is benefiting from the fact that there is a campus here. You're in a great part of Tokyo. There is a lot of potential. So I think that they should do more with it. We hope to see more interest. Japan, unfortunately, is not sending as many students to the US these days. Hopefully, we can fill that gap by getting more Americans to come over here. And I hope if they realize they have a good chance at an internship, here at GE Capital Japan, that it would increase the American students' motivations to come here. So, please get the message out. We will support the best we can to give practical, beneficial experiences to your students, whether they come from the U.S. or the Tokyo campus.

Interview date: Friday, July 4, 2014