Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a choice. This statement, used frequently by everyone from politicians to corporate and community leaders, is simple and straightforward, while addressing an issue of great complexity. For society and for businesses of all types and sizes, awareness and recognition is just a starting point. In one of the nation’s most diverse states, New Jersey bankers have led the way forward in terms of meaningful choices and actions that capitalize on the benefits diversity and inclusion provide.
In her June 2019 feature for the ABA Banking Journal titled “The Diversity Differentiator,” Deputy Editor Monica C. Meinert cited numerous studies on how a diverse workforce can boost a company’s bottom line, including a 2015 McKinsey study, “Why Diversity Matters” and follow-up report in 2018, “Delivering Through Diversity” noting they show a clear and consistent pattern; firms in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity in their leadership ranks are likely to be more profitable than those that are not.
“At PNC, diversity and inclusion are among our corporate values and an integral part of our talent and leadership development strategy,” PNC Bank New Jersey Regional President Linda Bowden notes. “Talent goes hand in hand with diversity and inclusion because the highest-performing teams are diverse, and the most productive workplaces are inclusive. We also know that to most effectively compete in the market, our company must reflect our increasingly diverse customer base.”
That commitment to diversity and inclusion is partly reflected in the recognition PNC has received including Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality by the Human Rights Campaign for the sixth consecutive year and a score of 100% on the U.S. Business Leadership Network/American Association of People with Disabilities’ 2018 Disability Equality Index. These examples underscore PNC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, not only in New Jersey, but throughout the company.
“Columbia Bank’s support for diversity goes beyond the traditional sense because it leads with inclusion,” President and CEO Thomas J. Kemly says. “At Columbia, diversity is integrated within many of our programs such as recruiting, on-boarding, compensation and succession planning.”
Kemly, also chairman of NJBankers, points out that inclusion is practiced by creating a collaborative, supportive and respectful environment that increases the participation and contribution of all employees. Early this year, Columbia Bank partnered with a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) consultant to conduct an assessment of practices and programs which resulted in several recommendations that are under review. Examples of those recommendations included creating new affinity groups and mentoring programs.
“The bank currently has an affinity group dedicated to supporting our millennial population,” Kemly says. “Additionally, we sponsor minority organizations such as the New Jersey Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and support and encourage employee volunteering, which increases exposure and learning about different cultures.”
In her presentation “Diversity and Inclusion is Everyone’s Business” at NJBankers Women in Banking Conference in April, 2017, Alycia Banks, Training & Development Officer at Columbia Bank, noted benefits of D&I to banks and other businesses in addition to profitability, including higher retention rates and improved customer service, increased productivity and employee engagement and reduced complaints. Diversity is about embracing differences, banks’ further states, and recognizing the amazing things that are possible when it’s woven into an organization’s culture.
Emphasizing inclusion that addresses the need for greater female representation in bank leadership, NJBankers Women’s Leadership Conference continues to feature an impressive lineup of speakers and topics designed to enhance the careers of women in the financial industry.
PNC Bank supports diverse hiring and practices and programs through defined human resources best practices and with the support of Employee Business Resource Groups. “Early on, PNC realized the need to support the needs of a diverse base of customer segments,” Bowden points out. “Customers want to conduct business with others who share a common bond and better understanding of their specific needs.
“That is one of the driving forces behind PNC’s Employee Business Resource Groups in New Jersey, and across the company,” Bowden continues. “These groups are focused on women professionals, LGBTQ, African-American, Latino, Asian-American, military veteran segments, among others. They play a critical role in fostering a culture of diversity that enables us to better understand one another and earn the business of New Jersey’s diverse population.”
“Columbia Bank’s leadership strategically keeps a pulse on the changing demographics of our employee population. Leveraging the data, we look at many of our practices to ensure inclusion is being supported,” Kemly notes. “For example, from a talent acquisition perspective, in the last two associate development programs and summer internship programs, the bank hired 60% minorities. Our new hire employee orientation session has a half-day-session program covering generations in the workplace.
“The bank also continuously looks at pay equity across our employee population,” Kemly adds. “When looking at filling senior level and officer roles, we look to have a diverse candidate slate as part of the talent pool. We also develop an affirmative action plan each year in which hiring goals are set to meet the diversity goals for our minority/female populations and achievement of the goals is monitored on a quarterly basis.”
The commitment to diversity and inclusion extends to community-based initiatives and philanthropic efforts. “Reflecting who we are as a company as a whole and the values we embrace, there are several examples we can point to in New Jersey that speak to our diversity and inclusion commitment,” PNC’s Bowden says.
“Through our local philanthropic focus and in conjunction with our New Jersey-based Employee Business Resource Groups, along with business community peers and community organizations, we hosted an event on anti-bullying and LGBTQ topics that featured a moving discussion with Jane Clementi from The Tyler Clementi Foundation. We’ve also hosted events led by our African American Employee Business Resource Group that showcased the amazing artists and cultural displays from Harlem Fine Arts. These events have been well attended and brought together a broad spectrum of employees and friends in the community.”
That’s just a small sample of the bank’s diversity and inclusion focus, Bowden states, highlighting that PNC has also been a long-time supporter of the North Jersey Pride celebration and more broadly, a sponsor of the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning that provides the opportunity to meet with neighbors and customers across the state, all representing the state’s diverse communities.
The Columbia Bank Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in New Jersey, has been designated to help support local charitable causes and community projects on a sustained basis. The foundation actively seeks and focuses on innovative programs that provide a measurable impact in the communities that it serves. Charitable contributions from the foundation are granted in major areas including affordable housing, community investment and economic development, financial literacy and education, health and human services, food pantries and the arts. Year to date, the bank has granted almost $1,479,000 to many nonprofit organizations across New Jersey.
“We are home to one of the country’s most diverse populations, with residents who identify as LGBTQ, African-American, Hispanic, Asian and myriad cultural communities that reflect our nation’s broad cultural heritage,” Bowden concludes. “A commitment to diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but in a state like New Jersey, it provides a clear competitive advantage.”
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