Innovation | 10.03.18
Citi's Wealth Management Arm Finds Success in Diversity
In an industry where more than 75 percent of financial advisors are white, Citi Personal Wealth Management (CPWM) is redoubling its efforts to upend the status quo.
Last year, the firm’s parent, Citigroup Inc., initiated a robust suite of recruitment and training initiatives. The results have been impressive: Half of all CPWM’s newly hired financial advisors came from diverse ethnic backgrounds in 2017.
Frank Consalo, a CPWM managing director (and BISA board member), said that the companywide push owed to two important reasons. The first, he said, is that diversity is "a leading indicator of the quality of our culture."
Secondly, “it's an effective way of connecting to a client base that is just as diverse,” Consalo said.
"When a company embraces diversity, the most talented people are not just attracted to joining the company, but are also much more productive and motivated to stay," he added.
Citigroup's efforts start at the highest rungs of the corporate ladder. Starting in 2017 and continuing into 2018, amplifying its diversity strategy involved the top executives who comprise the ‘CEO's leadership team.’ These individuals, in turn, co-chair affinity groups that represent a broad range of demographic categories, including:
- Pride (LGBT)
- Asian Heritage
- Black Heritage
- Citi Women
- Hispanic/Latino Heritage
- Citi Salutes (military veterans)
"These affinity groups are designed to ensure that we understand, appreciate and leverage the uniqueness of our entire employee base," Consalo said.
In another related strategic move, Citi combined its talent and diversity organizations to make sure that diversity gets embedded — and measured — across all talent recruitment processes and initiatives. The move also ensures that diversity and talent efforts are synched up with overall business strategy.
Citi has a diversity operating committee, comprising senior human resource leaders. The role of the committee is to make sure the firm's programs and policies advance its inclusion goals. Citi's board of directors annually reviews the progress of the diversity strategy and sets priorities.
To move the inclusion needle meaningfully, Citi knew it could not rely on what it has done in the past. Leaders looked for new approaches, some of them unconventional. For example, the leaders of the firm’s U.S. retail team, which includes financial advisor leadership, participated in training courses that used professional theater actors to tackle workforce diversity and cross-cultural awareness.
The actors came from Connie Wong Associates, a diversity consulting firm that has pioneered the “interactive theater” form of training.
“The characters pulled our executives into engaging, real-life scenarios,” Consalo said. “That allowed our leaders to reflect on unconscious biases.”
Citi’s human resources team also undertook some unique training, gleaning valuable “unconscious bias” lessons from none other than Dr. Mahzarin Banaji. In 2013, Banaji, an Indian-American social psychologist at Harvard University, co-published the best-seller Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People with Anthony Greenwald.
Meanwhile, Citi has piloted a “Reverse Mentorship Program.” It’ll provide senior executives with junior mentors from diverse backgrounds to help them enhance understanding of cultural perspectives.
Leveraging Social Media Technology
One of the more creative components of the revamped diversity effort is the use of social technology to create an intra-firm content-sharing platform called Citi Collaborate. It has custom feeds and streams across a broad array of topics, much of them focused on diversity and inclusion. Embedded within this platform is the #togetheratciti campaign that encourages all employees to share their perspectives about what diversity means and why it matters.
Earlier this year, Citi received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's 2018 Corporate Equality Index (CEI).
The national survey benchmarks corporate policies and practices for LGBT workplace equality. It was the 14th straight year Citi earned an unblemished mark.
Citi has created hard targets for raising the number of women and African Americans in management positions by 2021, according to an internal memo cited by Bloomberg. Black employees in the United States will make up 8 percent of managers in roles from assistant vice president to managing directors within three years, up from 6 percent today, the Bloomberg report said. The bank also plans to boost the share of women in those management positions globally to 40 percent from 37 percent.
Rich Blake A veteran journalist based in New York City, Blake has covered the financial world for numerous publications, including Institutional Investor, ABCNews.com and Reuters. Blake was a co-founder and executive editor of Trader Monthly magazine. The Buffalo native is the author of three nonfiction books, including “The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up,” which is currently being adapted into a motion picture. In 2004, Blake was nominated for a National Magazine Award in the Reporting category for Institutional Investor.