RBC make inroads into diversity

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, last year, women made up less than a third of personal financial advisors, 35 per cent of financial analysts and 39 per cent of workers in the securities, commodities, and fund management business. Similarly, the 2010 Catalyst Census of Women Executive Officers found that women comprised less than a quarter of all senior officers in the financial services and insurance industries. It is an imbalance that many companies are keen to rectify.

One company that has had considerable success in this area is RBC, Canada’s largest bank and the country’s biggest corporation, with 77,000 employees. The number of women in executive roles at the company rose from 28 per cent in 2000 to 37 per cent last year. Nearly 40 per cent of RBC executives in North America are women, who in total hold more than half of management roles there.

I spoke with Wanda Brackins, head of RBC Wealth Management Global Diversity, who told me that the bank’s efforts in this area are partly due to changing demographics.

“We are a company that is built on relationships, and we are [increasingly selling financial products] to underserved segments of the population, such as Hispanics, African-Americans and women. Our client base is  diverse, and we needed to diversify our workforce to represent that.”

Brackins says that prospective clients often ask how many women managers there are at the company and how RBC is addressing diversity.

“Our customers want to know that our firm hires women, and understands women.”

The biggest change RBC has made to aid women’s advancement is to ensure that lists of candidates for each job vacancy include at least one woman. This has put the onus on recruiters to deliver qualified women applicants and has increased accountability among hiring managers to ensure fairer practices. The bank also aims to include women in one of every two positions at both senior manager and executive levels.

Another programme is RBC’s “reciprocal mentoring” scheme, which matches high-potential women and ethnic minorites with senior leaders who offer them career advice. It is reciprocal because the “mentors get an insight into the roadblocks that these groups face as they progress in the organisation,” she says.

Brackins is also 2011 chairwoman of the diversity committee for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, which will later this year release the findings of a survey it conducted to determine the impact of the economic crisis on diversity in the financial services industry.

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