Racial Equality on Wall Street: Who Does It Best

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When it comes to diversity on Wall Street, which banks walk the walk? Bank of America and JPMorgan, for starters.

Recruiters say most every bank on Wall Street has a firm commitment to racial diversity for two main reasons: They've become less white-male dominated and are demanding more candidates that reflect their diverse backgrounds, especially given the rise of public pension plan managers and municipal investors with racially diverse leadership.

Two independent surveys credit BofA for hiring policies and leadership programs that embrace African Americans and other minorities.

Black Enterprise Magazine's Top 40 list singled out Bank of America's global operations and said the firm excelled in diversity 'across all sectors," including the percentage of African Americans and other minorities as part of the bank's total employee base, board of directors, and senior management team.

The magazine also applauded some insurers and spotlighted two private companies: TIAA-CREF and Comerica.

BofA was number 9 on DiversityInc's 2010 hit parade. Lower on the list: HSBC North America, JPMorgan, Capital One and Wells Fargo.

'White Shoe" Firms Have (Mostly) Disappeared

"The white shoe firms are gone," says George Wilbanks, a managing director at Russell Reynolds in New York. "In every search we do for major financial services firms, a diverse slate of candidates is the absolute minimum expected."

Still, Black Enterprise Magazine reports that with the economic decline, "a disturbingly high number of C-suite executives scratched diversity from their action plans" between 2009 and 2010. And white males held 64 percent of senior financial services positions the last time the GAO did a reading in 2008."

Look for Internships and Leadership Programs

The good news: Bankers who don't hire enough minorities are under pressure to get with the program, while those that do are beefing up leadership programs designed to help diverse employees move up in the organization.

Among its many employee networking groups, JP Morgan has an Investment Bank Black Leadership Forum Focusing on recruiting, mobility, retention, communications, networking and strategic partnerships.

Bank of America, meanwhile, provided five investment banking fellowships last year to MBA students through its Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Banking and Markets MBA Diversity Fellowship Program. During 2011, the bank will offer up to 10 fellowships across its investment banking, capital markets, sales and trading and research divisions.

Also, senior executives are hosting monthly luncheons across its Global Banking and Markets unit where diverse employees can meet with different banking and financial markets leaders.

What else you can do to get a foot in the door at your firm of choice: Gain visibility by being active in industry organizations like the ABA and the Investment Company Institute. And be open to calls from recruiters representing banking clients, keeping in mind their mission to produce slates of ethnically diverse candidates.

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