Angela Wang ’16, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Angela-WangMy Princeternship took place at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the newest federal agency aimed to help consumers navigate financial markets and make smart choices. The Bureau organized a well-structured spring break program; I, along with two other Princeton students, Thomas and Luke, was part of a fifteen-student group with others from Harvard, University of Maryland, and Charleston College.

Day 1:
On the first day, we were given a broad overview of the work done at the agency and the opportunities for us students to get involved, be it through an internship or post-graduation. A representative from each division, many of them senior-level executives, prepared short presentations and answered questions about what they did and why they liked working at the bureau. We stopped for lunch at a hip Asian fusion restaurant and wrapped up the day with a panel discussion with four recent graduates who were a part of the CFPB’s two-year rotational, development program.

Day 2:
On the second day of the program, we delved deeper into the work that the Research, Regulations, and Market team does at CFPB. LingLing, a Princeton alum and researcher, gave us an assignment related to a rule the Bureau had issued. We were asked to read through publicly submitted comments on the rule and determine what should be changed based on the opinions. This simulated the position of a consultant.

We had lunch with three Princeton alumni, Chuck Brown ’02, Ling Ling Ang, and Andrew Trueblood ’05, at a great restaurant called Blackfinn. It was great to hear how their different backgrounds all converged at the CFPB, from economics to WWS to politics. In the afternoon, we got a tour of the CFPB building and finished up the day with a discussion with members of the RMR branch about our findings from the comments. They plan to release the official rule later and were interested in finding any particularly compelling arguments. It’s cool to know that they actually take into account the opinions of individuals in their operations.

Day 3:
On the final day of our Princeternship, we focused on the supervision division, which regulates financial institutions. After an awesome lunch at Farragut Square where a number of food trucks are parked, we spent the afternoon with the division. Andrew gave a brief presentation on how the agency determines which institutions to supervise, and two of the Director’s Financial Analysts (one a Princeton alum!) gave us a task that was part of their own project to create portfolios for various financial institutions. My partner and I had to research the State Employees’ Credit Union and create the first part of the portfolio, which any employee within the Bureau would then be able to review to learn more about SECU.

I couldn’t believe those three days passed so quickly;Wang 1 it was such a great experience to meet students from other universities and fellow ORFE classmates. The agency is truly a unique and fascinating workplace with a start-up culture. I am very interested in the quantitative and consultant-like work they engage in and would love to get involved in the future, as an intern or even a DFA! I was inspired by the vision of the presenters, the warmth of employees, and their genuine interest in sharing their work. I have to thank the alumni who we met and worked with and Bruce Arthur, our coordinator, who made sure we were always accommodated. He mentioned they may hold this program in the fall and spring, and I strongly encourage anyone who has interest in finance, public service, economics, or any related field to participate! I never would have had the chance to get such a comprehensive view of a government agency, and the experience piqued my interest in public service, a field I had not considered beforehand! This was a great exploration of my professional options, and I look forward to further involvement with the Princeternship program.

Timothy Tran ’15, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Timothy-TranThis year’s CFPB Princeternship was organized a little differently than traditional Princeternships. The reasons for this were that the CFPB has only been in existence since July of 2011, and this is the first time the CFPB has hosted a Princeternship. The Princeternship consisted of 15 students – 3 from Princeton, 3 from Harvard, 2 from Carlton, and the remainder from the University of Maryland. Rather than shadowing a single Princeton alumnus throughout the three days, we met with a whirlwind of people from all over the organization, and had the opportunity to learn about their specific role within the CFPB.

Day 1 – Monday, March 18th, 2013
The first day of the Princeternship was spent listening to speakers from around the organization to obtain a high-level understanding of the CFPB’s mission and structure. We attended talks with staff members from the Operations Division, the Consumer Response Center, CFPB Talent Acquisition, the Project Management Office, the CFO’s Office, External Affairs, and the Director’s Financial Analyst program. Each talk lasted between 20 and 40 minutes, started with an overview of the department, and left about 10 minutes for questions at the end.

The talks were incredibly diverse, and ranged from discussing the logistics of how to inform consumers about financial products to the thrill of shaping the CFPB during its infancy. A key theme that emerged throughout the day was that the CFPB looks like a government agency, but is currently run with an entrepreneurial feel. At 1100 members strong, the CFPB employs a remarkably flat organizational structure, rather than the stereotypical layers of bureaucracy for which DC agencies are well-known. Because the CFPB recently rose to power in July of 2011, much of the current staff members’ time is devoted to developing processes that will govern the agency’s actions for decades to come.

We took an hour for lunch at the nearby Café Asia, which gave us the opportunity to meet the other students, as well as speak with Bruce Arthur (the coordinator of the event) in a more informal setting.

Day 2 – Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Day 2 was spent with the Research, Market, and Regulation Division (RMR) of the CFPB. We attended talks about Residential Real Estate Transactions and Fair Lending. The bulk of the day was spent performing an analysis of public comments made in response to a proposed rule consolidating the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. From working on the project with the other students, I gained an enhanced understanding of the mortgage underwriting process and how the CFPB regulates mortgage underwriting standards.

Overall, Day 2 involved less listening and more doing, which was a welcome change. I learned a lot about the CFPB’s challenge in crafting rules that do not adversely impact too many businesses, remaining in compliance with the legislation governing the CFPB’s existence, and effectively regulating the consumer finance industry.

For lunch, the group split by university and met up with respective alumni working at the CFPB. It was great to get to know Chuck, Ling Ling, and Andrew over lunch at Blackfinn restaurant, and to see how they made their way from Princeton to the CFPB.

Day 3 – Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
The last day of the Princeternship consisted of talks regarding Transparency and FOIA at CFPB, a DC Jobs Panel, interacting with the Director’s Financial Analysts (DFA), and a hands-on Supervision activity.

The DFA program was created to attract undergraduates that might otherwise work at well-known Wall Street banks, and to harness their data analysis skills for the strengthening of the CFPB’s policies. I had a great time speaking with the current DFAs, listening to their past experiences and future plans, and learning about how they influence the CFPB on a daily basis.

During the DC Jobs Panel, a former consultant, Tran 1a former Congressional staffer, and a former executive branch employee, all of whom were now working for the CFPB, discussed their careers and offered advice about working in Washington, DC. This was one of my favorite sessions of the Princeternship, because it gave us the chance to explore why people from all kinds of careers decide to join the CFPB.
Through this Princeternship, I learned more about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in three days than I ever would have imagined possible. It was a great opportunity to meet people from all kinds of academic backgrounds – private vs. public, MBA vs. JD vs. MPA, consulting vs. banking – and to learn about why they chose the career paths they chose. It was also a great opportunity to meet students from other universities with similar academic interests.

Shout-out to Chuck Brown ’02 and Bruce Arthur for making this Princeternship a great success!