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Racial Equality on Wall Street: Who Does It Best

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.

AUTHORJanet Aschkenasy Insider Comment
  • Ja
    25 March 2011

    Perhaps companies should focus on the most-qualified candidates instead of the color of their skin & virtual quotas. The U.S. is losing its leadership in the world with such backward ideas. Also, there is diversity within white groups, which is never mentioned. white people come from various ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds. Merit should be the determining factor - not racial policies.

  • Wo
    Worked There
    23 March 2011

    BofA diversity? How many MD's in investment banking are "diverse?" Having worked there, I can tell you that in investment banking you can count the number of "officers" on one hand. S&T is different - more meritocracy once you get a seat. If they are looking at retain branches, the story/picture is different, but that's not "Wall Street."

  • Go
    23 March 2011

    JPMorgan and diversity? what a joke. this reporter clearly hasn't been inside any of the trading or banking floors at 383 madison.

  • Bi
    21 March 2011

    I think this is a good step forward in the right direction - give credit to those banks that have tried- it took the country over two hundred years to be where we are this dAy- let's encourage more ibanks to surpass bofA- let's criticize them when they stand idol watching our talents go to waste

  • mi
    18 March 2011

    Ibanks offer these "minorities programme or minority day" because minorities are not given equal opportunities in the first place through their normal recruitment process. If they are what they claim as being equal opportunity employers, then the minorities would have already been well represented in the course of normal hiring process as there are many qualified minorities and no need for such programmes! Not talking about any particular ibanks mentioned above, but in general about the ibanking industry.

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