How Citi is Paving the Way for African Americans in Finance

How Citi is Paving the Way for African Americans in Finance was originally published on WayUp.

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Ever since Maggie Lena Walker established and presided over the first bank to service black organizations, African Americans have been shaping the history of finance. 100 years later, people of color are still making contributions that leave everlasting impacts on the industry.

Although a lot of progress has been made for people of color (POC) in the banking and finance space, they are still at a disadvantage. The facts of the matter are that POC are disproportionately represented in finance and face a harder time breaking into the industry than their caucasian counterparts.

As a company that emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusion, Citi identifies with these issues wholeheartedly. Citi also knows that if these trends continue, an entire legacy of future Maggie Walkers might cease to exist. Even worse, the ideas that these people of color would have contributed to the space would never see the light of day, slowing down the evolution of the finance world as we know it.

In order to allow diverse mindsets to continue benefiting their company and the industry as a whole, Citi has made sure to create a space where people of color not only feel welcome but motivated to succeed as well. In order to do that, they have rolled out a series of initiatives that are paving the way for people of color in finance. The first of which has to do with their recruiting strategy.

HBCU Recruiting and Presence

In order to employ the brightest minds, first, you have to find them. That’s why Citi decided to set up an aggressive recruiting strategy at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). And we’re not just talking about free koozies and stickers. Citi is going to these campuses and doing presentations on diversity and inclusion, educating students about opportunities, and portraying itself as a company where people of color can really succeed.

Here is what Global Banking Analyst Brianna Demming had to say about the impression Citi left when they visited Howard University during her time as an undergraduate.

By continuing to establish meaningful relationships with students at HBCUs, Citi intends on building a workforce that includes both incredibly talented individuals and people from diverse backgrounds.

HBCU Alumni Network

By creating groups and communities that allow people from similar backgrounds to come together and share thoughts, companies can create new environments to help their employees thrive. That’s why Citi established the HBCU Alumni Network! As you might be able to infer, the HBCU Alumni Network is a group at Citi that allows alumni from different HBCUs to connect, network, and help one another grow. Which, for a lot of people, helped them succeed and learn in a lot of ways. 

My involvement with the HBCU Alumni Network has taught me the importance of being proactive when you’re on a team. I was tasked to work alongside another team member to initiate contact with 19 schools. I hesitated on whether I should wait for him to reach out first since he has been employed at Citi longer than me but I ended up having the courage to set up the first meeting. He expressed how impressed he was that I took charge right away and set up a strong foundation for the work we’ll be completing together. That experience taught me to never doubt myself or my capabilities, even if I may be the youngest on the team, and if there is an opportunity to showcase your skills or leadership, you always jump at it! 

Brianna Demming, Global Consumer Banking Analyst

Through her involvement with the HBCU Alumni Network, Brianna not only gained more experience and confidence in herself, but she also made a good impression on her colleague. All around wins.

Black Heritage Network

Similar to the HBCU Alumni Network is the Black Heritage Network affinity group at Citi. Within this group, people of color can come together, socialize, share their thoughts, seek out mentors, and essentially just share space with people who are similar to them.

After you graduate, the number of groups and organizations you can join to socialize, grow yourself, and feel welcome gets cut in half. When these groups are no longer available, especially in the corporate world, some individuals face issues that diminish their productivity and most importantly, their self-worth. That’s why establishing affinity groups is so advantageous and why Citi chose to do it themselves.

POC in Leadership Positions

One very direct way to help people of color succeed in the finance realm is to place them in leadership and management positions. By doing so, you not only diversify the leadership on your team, but you also create mentors, idols, and individuals who people from similar backgrounds can identify with. As a result, students and job-seeking individuals become more inclined to apply for positions at the company.

No one likes being the only spotted duck in the pond. It’s comforting to grow with and be trained by others who have similar experiences to you. They are the only ones who can truly understand what it takes to succeed in this business with a background similar to my own.

As Chike said, it’s comforting to grow and be trained by people who are similar to you. When you can relate to these people, it makes the relationship better on all ends. Corporate Banking Analyst Brielle Self had a similar experience with her mentor during her time at Howard. 

If it weren’t for Citi putting Brielle’s mentor into that Campus Ambassador position, it’s possible that Brielle may have never ended up at Citi. By creating this position and ones like it, Citi now has talent pipelines that will draw in some of the brightest minds in finance for years to come. Pipelines that might just end up finding you one day.

What’s Next for Citi?

While these initiatives may seem bold, Citi has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Much like the Action for Racial Equity Initiative, a $1 billion+ commitment to help close the racial wealth gap and increase economic mobility in the United States, the ideas Citi is putting forth will have a substantial impact on the industry and the world for years to come. 

If this is an endeavor that you would like to be a part of and contribute to, check out the positions Citi is currently hiring for. Who knows, in just a few years it could be you leading the change.

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