Culture and Talent

Banks are pushing opportunities for charity work to recruit talent

  • Banks have offered community service opportunities to employees for a long time, but now they're making those opportunities more personal and beneficial
  • Community service is yet another way for banks to level with Silicon Valley firms in their war for talent
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Banks are pushing opportunities for charity work to recruit talent

When Citi recruiters are out on college campuses across the country, along with talking about the bank’s competitive pay, career opportunities and global footprint, they’re often mentioning one more thing: If you come work for us, you can have the opportunity to give back to the community — and maybe even get on a board or two.

Banks have offered their employees community service opportunities for decades, but in the last few years banks like Citi have been taking a closer look at how they can help attract and retain talent — particularly among a generation of young people who care about social impact and are often generalized as job hoppers. Citi’s most recent initiative is a pilot investment in CariClub, a platform that connects young corporate talent with non-profit organizations seeking junior or associate board members.

“We love the ability to go out on campuses and say, ‘One of the things as you consider Citi and we consider you… [is] opportunities around ‘experiential volunteering.’ Whether before or after you’re hired or five years in, we have multiple opportunities for you to give back,” said Bill Fisse, who heads Citi’s global campus recruiting and program management strategy department. “It’s a brand enhancer for us, but we’re sincerely committed because it really goes to taking on our corporate vision of enabling growth and progress in the world.”

As part of Citi’s “experiential volunteering” opportunities, high-performing employees can opt to spend a gap year with a non-profit organization, take a four- or five-week sabbatical to do microfinance work in Africa through its Volunteer Africa program; mentor underprivileged youth as they apply to colleges; do a stock trading game and give back to a charity of the employee’s choice if he or she wins.

The message Citi wants to send is: If you stick with the firm for two or three years and distinguish yourself in some way in that time, it’ll supporting the idea that its employees want to give back or pursue board service, Fisse said.

“Increasingly — and especially coming out of the financial crisis — we know the industry and Citi have taken a little bit of a hit around prestige, culture,” he said. Touting its own culture and mission statement can bring out some “lofty statements that might apply broadly,” he added, but in turning the focus on the values of the potential employee as an early career professional, “intuitively it’s helping us build the kind of culture that we want and believe in.”

Banks have had volunteer programs in place for decades, but they haven’t really been part of their company culture, according to Kurt Kraeger, managing director Robert Walters — unlike some tech companies in Silicon Valley that make volunteering and community service a requirement to some degree.

“It’s all part of the overall experience and atmosphere they’re trying to sell to millennials,” Kraeger said about Silicon Valley companies. “The banks and financial services companies are waking up to the the volunteer aspect of trying to appeal to millennials.”

That’s starting to change today, he said, and should become more obvious in the coming years as millennial talent seeks employment at companies whose values align with their own and Wall Street continues to compete with Silicon Valley for talent, as the number of digital and technology jobs grows.

While they may be dubbed, among many things, the “job-hopping” generation, millennials are increasingly loyal to their current employer, according to the most recent Deloitte Millennial Survey, which shows 38 percent of millennials indicated they plan to leave their jobs within two years, compared to 44 percent in 2016; 31 percent indicated they plan to stay for longer than five years, compared with 27 percent in 2016; and 7 percent plan to leave “soon,” compared with 17 percent in 2016. Millennials also want to do more than work — a study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 94 percent of millennials want to use their skills to benefit a cause and 57 percent wish that there were more company-wide service days.

Tom Wieder, president of recruitment firm WorldBridge Partners, said drawing more attention to that conversation would attract more people as potential employees and build their employment brand significantly.

“A lot of people are wanting to know the places they’re looking at have more than profit in mind,” said Tom Wieder, president of recruitment firm WorldBridge Partners.

Banks are starting to wonder the same thing about their employee prospects, Kraeger said. Companies Robert Walters works with want to see the volunteering section on employees’ resumes.

“In my 27 years of recruiting that’s never come up at all. In the last year or so I’ve been hearing it more and more,” he said.

Like Citi, Wells Fargo is also touting its “experiential” volunteer opportunities and looking at how it can help promote personal development among employees. It’s easy for companies to plan one-day events cleaning up parks, handing out meals or racing for a cure — Citi and Wells recognize that a growing number of people want their involvement to be more personal.

Melissa Buchanan, Wells Fargo’s global volunteerism manager, said it would be a “huge miss” if it didn’t market its volunteer initiatives as a selling point to new recruits.

That’s why Wells’ social responsibility group often collaborates with its talent development group. Incidentally, it too determined that board service is a “key experience” for employee development, though its support for employee board service is less active than Citi’s. It provides a module that walks employees interested in pursuing board service, or even currently serving, through all the things they should expect of the nonprofit they serve and the things that organization would expect of their junior board members.

“We’re on a journey to help transform our strategy in attracting, developing, engaging and retaining early career talent,” Fisse said. Citi wants “to give them the kind of experiences early in their career that will cause them to say ‘this is a place I want to stay and build my career.’”

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