Awards for Excellence 2019
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Bank of America has been focusing on diversity and inclusion (D&I) for decades. It is an amalgamation of many banks, each with their own initiatives, and chief executive Brian Moynihan says D&I is in the company’s bones: “There’s no doubt we are playing off a huge heritage, because to change a culture takes time.”
It does, and it is clear that Bank of America has had a head start on its peers, but there is also no doubt that Moynihan’s own focus has only deepened that commitment. He chaired the global diversity and inclusion council at the firm back in 2008, before he became chief executive. He still does.
And that commitment is constantly measured, refined and developed under Cynthia Bowman, chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Sheri Bronstein, chief human resources officer.
The internal statistics speak for themselves. More than 50% of the bank’s global workforce are women and more than 45% of its US-based workforce are people of colour.
Senior leadership is similarly diverse – more than 40% of Bank of America’s board is female and/or people of colour. Additionally, seven of Moynihan’s direct reports are women and/or people of colour.
Those numbers are the result of efforts to ensure that diverse talent is recognized, supported and rewarded through a combination of development programmes, unconscious bias training and mandatory hiring and promotion requirements.
Pride in the level of inclusion among employees is evident: 121,000 employees have taken voluntary D&I training and the bank’s 11 employee networks have 140,000 members.
What is particularly special at Bank of America is its commitment to constantly ensuring that the programmes it has are working and evolving. Every programme is measured and improved.
“Unconscious bias training was a good first step, but we found while it trained people to be more aware, it wasn’t changing actions in the moment,” says Bowman.
It led the bank to instead roll out a programme where actors are brought in to role-play situations with employees that may occur at work and demonstrate how unconscious biases may creep in.
Bank of America also improved its support of its employees looking to start or grow a family. It now gives employees a lifetime maximum of $20,000 for adoption, fertility or surrogacy expenses.
“We listened to our employees and, in this way, we can support all our employees in however they choose to start or expand their families, including single parents, LGBT couples and straight couples,” says Bronstein.
This is in addition to being one of the most generous banks in the US for parental leave – it allows up to 16 paid weeks for maternity, paternity and adoption – and allowances for time off for all parents or caregivers.
Unconscious bias training was a good first step, but we found while it trained people to be more aware, it wasn’t changing actions in the moment- Cynthia Bowman
Supporting its employees in times of need, the bank offers six free face-to-face counselling sessions for employees and their family members. It also has a Life Event Services team connecting employees to support on topics including retirement, grief, domestic violence, gender transition and impact from natural and man-made disasters.
Since the programme’s launch, more than 90,000 employees have used the service. It complements the bank’s courageous conversations programme, which offers a discussion platform on topics such as social justice and mental health.
Financial wellness is also high on Bank of America’s agenda. This year the bank raised its minimum US hourly wage to $17, and will raise that again to $20 in 2021, says Bronstein. The bank also offers discounted banking to employees and training on budgeting – as it does for its clients.
Where the bank has really demonstrated its commitment to inclusion for both employees and communities is in its hiring.
Eighteen months ago, it announced it would focus on hiring from low to moderate-income (LMI) communities; it has already hired half of the 10,000 individuals it had set as a target. To ensure upward mobility, Bank of America offers training courses such as its career-path development course, the Academy, and programmes that give employees training across business lines.
This commitment to inclusion is echoed in the opening of dedicated LMI consumer branches with tailored products and services to help customers improve their financial health. It is shown in its investments in female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of colour. It is shown in the diversity requirements in the bank’s supply chain and in its commitment to sharing its best practices with corporate clients.
“Our industry has a moral standard to help every person access opportunity; within that we have more than 205,000 team mates who impact society at large and can facilitate inclusion and opportunity in the work they do. We are very serious about this,” says Moynihan.
There is still work to be done, the bank admits. And indeed Bowman says that there will never be a point at which work around D&I stops: “It’s not something that just ends.”
Moynihan adds: “We’ve worked to bringing D&I into every single part of the business. We leave nothing to chance, so that whatever is happening, it’s part of the machinery here and is almost self-perpetuating now. There is of course more to be done, but the momentum is built in.”