Uncovering the Wharton MBA-Based Bank

We could use your help. We’re trying to flesh out the history of the Student Federal Credit Union (SFCU) at the University of Pennsylvania, for it remains a bit fuzzy. In 1987, three MBA students founded it. To this day, the credit union is one of only two run entirely by students. It’s the first and only one in the Ivy League. (The other is at Georgetown University.)

Kevin Cong, Wendy Cheng, Alice Shen, Zhenhao Li and Kevin Wu ran the Student Federal Credit Union at the University of Pennsylvania this summer.

Penn undergrads Kevin Cong, Wendy Cheng, Alice Shen, Zhenhao Li and Kevin Wu ran the Student Federal Credit Union at the University of Pennsylvania this summer.

In Penn’s case, undergrads man the tellers at its location on 34th and Walnut streets. They make decisions on loans, and ensure the bank meets regulatory strictures and maintain in good standing with the National Credit Union Administration. As many as 80 students work at the bank during the school year, servicing as many as 1,300 customers.

“We’ve run it pretty successfully as of now,” reports sophomore Alice Shen, who served on the skeletal staff of five between school years as summer manager. “Being completely student run doesn’t detract from it in any way.”

As a freshman in search of extracurricular activities, Shen was turned on to the credit union by a friend who told her she could gain real-world experience. She spent her first semester—like everyone’s first semester at the bank—as an intern and teller. She worked three hours a week, not including the one-hour weekly staff meeting she attended. In her second semester she moved up to become a loan analyst. Now into her second school year, Shen will serve on the committee level as assistant director of collections and a loan officer.

Shen pauses when asked what she has learned from the experience because it’s been a complete eye-opener for her about banking. She has come to grasp how and why a bank invests, how it analyzes fee structures, as well as how banks face the varying challenges brought to it each day by customers.

Students can move from day-to-day positions to higher leadership roles in finance, credit, operations, marketing, information systems and the credit union’s other divisions. The top of the organization is comprised of a CEO and a chairman of the board—respectively, Wharton seniors Mihir Jain and Akshay Almelkar—as well as a chief financial officer, chief operating officer, several vice presidents and four core committees (credit, operations, general ledger and supervisory). This leadership oversees the day-to-day existence of the bank along with the long-term projects needed to maintain the bank’s financial viability. Shen appreciated that these senior bank leaders, and Penn upperclassman, make themselves available to provide advice and mentorship.

From the alumni testimonials on the SFCU website, we can easily learn of a few young alumni who worked at the bank—and who continue to assist by coming back for talks and to serve as network connections for students and other alumni. This list includes: Bryan Yasukochi, W’13, former SFCU chairman and now an investment banking analyst at Credit Suisse; Dharmin Desai, W’13, former SFCU CEO and now an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs; and Suruchi Srikanth, W’12, former SFCU vice president of marketing and now an associate consultant at Bain & Co.

We would love assistance with getting connected with older alumni who worked at SFCU—and even the original three founders. Shen recalls working the SFCU booth at Penn Alumni Weekend 2014, when an alum approached and told her he had been a founding member of the bank. She didn’t catch the person’s name.

Was it you?

Do you have a story to share from your time working at the Student Federal Credit Union at the University of Pennsylvania? Let us know in the comments section below.



  • Bill C

    I was the first full-time CIO at the launch of the UPSFCU in 1987. The only previous computer experience I had before joining UPSFCU was that I had an original Mac in my dorm room. Everyone from the teller to the President were volunteers. It was a great experience forming and growing an organization into the nation’s largest student-run Credit Union almost overnight. We ran the entire Credit Union off a donated IBM System 36 which used floppy discs the size of LPs (no hard drive). The software that came with the IBM was partially documented – so we had to figure out how to get keep it working properly. Looking back on the experience, it was alot of responsibility to give to a bunch of undergrads with little to no work experience. I remember spending about 20-30 hours a week – at that time, the Credit Union was on the top floor of Houston Hall.

    I remember that we wrote a case study on the formation of the credit union for my Organizational Behavior class at Penn.

    I’m happy to see my monthly statement in the mail each month. It’s one of the things I helped to leave behind once I graduated.

    It would be fun to hear from some of the other “old timers”!

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