Banks finding diversity pays off in several ways

Friday, September 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

With banks competing for minorities' business, they're finding their best
advantages are their own employees.

As a result, financial institutions are putting more resources into hiring minorities
and giving them incentives to stay.

"If we don't do a better job at working in emerging markets, then our competition
will," said Nadia Younes, vice president of diversity for Wells Fargo's Western
region, which includes Texas. "We're starting to feel it in our pockets."

Banks are using their workers' cultural knowledge and insights in designing
products to appeal to racial and ethnic minority communities, Ms. Younes said.

Some examples:

 Chicago-based Bank One financially supports minority employees' networking
groups, said Joanne Strong, vice president and head of corporate diversity.

 Wells Fargo has given diversity training to some of its Texas employees and
asked them to spread the word in their home banks. Wells Fargo, based in San
Francisco, also wants to bring the minority networking groups that exist in its
banks elsewhere in the country to Texas, Ms. Younes said.

 Chase Bank, based in New York, created the Metroplex Diversity Council to
oversee minority initiatives in the Dallas area. The bank already has Hispanic,
Asian-American and gay and lesbian networking groups here, said council
chairwoman Jennifer Jones.

Chase also offers diversity training as part of its employee career development
program. "One of the things we have found is that many of the potential employees
we talk to are asking if we have networking groups," Ms. Jones said. "We had to
create opportunities to bring those employees together."

Ms. Strong said Bank One is trying to "embed a philosophy in the organization
that diversity is something that is critical to our ability to be successful in the
marketplace," she said. "How we do that remains one of our challenges."

She said the answer can be found at the top.

"The thing that's important to do is get the leadership involved as we make our way
to getting employees involved," she said. "Everybody should be accountable, but
it's particularly important for our leadership."

Executives may push for diversity for business reasons, but the results benefit
employees, Ms. Younes said.

Diversity programs often give minority employees the opportunity to meet with
bank executives, giving them a voice in the company's direction. They can use
that voice to let their employers know how they want to be treated, Ms. Younes

In Colorado, she said, a group of Wells Fargo employees with physical disabilities
worked with senior managers in making the workplace more accessible to them.

"They get to build the awareness of what the issues are," Ms. Younes said.

That type of result illustrates the value of diversity programs, Ms. Younes said.

"It really helps the business as much as it helps the employees," she said.