Bank of America Takes Second Slot by Lori Comegys

Bank Of America

Charlotte, NC
280,000 employees
CEO: Brian Moynihan
CDE: Geri P. Thomas

Perhaps Bank Of America’s (BOA) diversity mission statement says it all: “At Bank of America, we respect and value not only differences related to race, gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation, but also diversity of viewpoint, experience, talents and ideas. We strive to empower all associates to excel on the job and reach their full potentials, and reward and recognize associates based on performance and results.”

The Charlotte, NC based BOA has moved up two places in the 50 Out Front rankings this year to reach position number two. It’s been a tough few years for the global financial services industry and BOA has suffered its share of missteps and setbacks. As financial tides signal the beginnings of change toward calmer economic waters, BOA remains one of the nation’s largest and most venerated enterprises. And, as its spot in this year’s listing proves, it has placed an equal premium on its human resources capital. It has put programs, supports, and initiatives in place that firmly demonstrate it is as serious about building a diverse employee, supplier and community outreach base as it is to fiscal success.

But what makes BOA a world-class employer with regard to diversity? “I like to call it the secret sauce”, says Program Management Executive for Diversity and Inclusion Iesha O’Deneal. “It starts with our CEO. Brian Moynihan isn’t phoning it in when it comes to diversity leadership. He is extremely committed. This is not an add-on; it’s part and parcel of who he is.”

Moynihan has led the bank’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Council, a group of key senior management staff which sets diversity strategy, since 2007, well before he became CEO in 2010. One important area where his resolve shows is BOA’s compensation policy for its executive team. Yearly diversity benchmarks are directly tied to executive pay. While this approach is somewhat standard for corporate diversity stars, BOA does not leave the achievement of those annual goals to chance. Precisely how an executive is working towards departmental targets is monitored closely. Quarterly status reports are mandatory. “And while they are reporting on a quarterly basis, they are getting feedback on a monthly basis,” says O’Deneal, adding that at year’s end, “on a holistic basis, the leaders are assessed on their performance against plan. We want to be sure we aren’t losing ground.” Given this structure, she notes, it’s unlikely that an executive would find him or herself falling behind in achieving the annual diversity and inclusion goals.

Executives, their teams, and the council business leads for each of the business lines are supported fully. Each develops their own diversity and inclusion strategy, building from the goals set at the enterprise level. “We are working hand in hand with the chairs of the various business Councils,” says O’Deneal. “We are working in lockstep with them.” sThis means, she explains, consulting, advising, and generally helping to promote their specific goals.

One of the bank’s most visible programs is the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch MBA Diversity Fellowship. The annual merit-based award program utilizes a number of avenues, including partnerships with the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and the prestigious Robert Tiogo Foundation to find capable African-American, Hispanic, LGBT, Alaskan Native/American Indian, military veteran, and students with disabilities to compete for $40,000 in tuition assistance for their first year of MBA study. When the first year is done, a paid summer internship is then provided on one of BOA’s 12 Global Banking/Capital Markets teams. f both of these — the first year of MBA study and the summer internship — are successfully completed, the recipient is then eligible for an additional $40,000 for tuition and fees for the second year of study. “It’s a real-world opportunity to really understand the banking and financial industry,” O’Deneal says, adding that once the MBA and internship work is completed, BOA hopes the end of the fellowship road leads to a job offer that’s accepted.

Recognizing that its position as a global financial behemoth provides a unique opportunity to help foster the success for minority-owned businesses, BOA began a supplier diversity and development program in 1990. The program is open to businesses with earnings of less than $50 million per year. Minority, female, veteran, disabled, and HUBZoned entrepreneurs who successfully register are then integrated into the BOA supply chain and provide services ranging in scope from property management to legal services. It has become a key component in the company’s diversity work.

A substantive mentoring program for people of color was launched recently that partners some of the bank’s highest level executives with individual employees. The executive then provides one-on-one assistance with career development and skills enhancement. Focusing always on a diversity strategy that also strengthens the bottom line, BOA knows that in the end a well-rounded employee base is simply good business, from the management of an international monetary fund to the 80-year-old long-time depositor asking a question at the customer service desk of her local branch. All of the diversity and inclusion efforts help drive a principal goal, says O’Deneal, “We hope that when you enter a BOA relationship you find yourself working with a team that reflects who you are.”

Lori Comegys is a freelance writer based in Cheltenham, PA

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