Banks diversity push sees Citigroup recruit associates in US from outside finance

FACING intense competition for talent and pressure to hit diversity goals, banks are getting more creative in their hiring, with Citigroup recruiting US associates this summer without banking experience or business degrees.

Launched this year, Citigroup's pilot programme aims to boost its diversity goals by recruiting associates from under-represented minorities as well as non-traditional backgrounds.

The group consists of 10 recruits, including lawyers, a dentist and an engineer - and 8 of them have not attended business school.

"We are trying to catch them right before they go to business school to give them a different opportunity," said Paul Burroughs, global chief operating officer and North America head of corporate banking for the New York-based global bank.

Banks have for years recruited candidates from liberal arts programmes for entry-level jobs like interns and analysts. Citi's effort is novel, said Patrick Curtis, chief executive of online career forum Wall Street Oasis, because it seeks to bring in associates, who manage analysts, from outside of the business world.

"The associate role is typically a post-MBA role, and it is considered a career-track role," said Curtis, referring to the Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Citi is betting that non-MBA candidates will bring different, sector-specific expertise that will help their investment and corporate banking teams.

Its programme also expands its recruiting network as banks face cut-throat hiring competition from peers and tech companies, which has pushed up wages. They are also under pressure from investors and policymakers to increase diversity, which has traditionally been lacking among senior ranks.

In 2018, about 26 per cent of employees in the US financial services industry were women and 1 per cent were Black, according to data from the US Government Accountability Office.

In 2021, 40.6 per cent of Citi's mid and senior-level staff globally were women, up from 37 per cent in 2018, its disclosures show. In the US, 8.1 per cent of Citi's mid and senior-level employees were Black, up from 6 per cent in 2018.

Citi, JPMorgan Chase and others have expanded recruiting to more colleges and cities, and offered training for people from other careers to attract talent for internship and entry-level banking roles.

Citi received 125 applications for 10 spots in the new programme. Two are Hispanic and eight are Black, the bank said.

The candidates get a roughly 3-month crash course in finance before joining the broader class of associates in July, a job 2 rungs up from interns and analysts, and 1 rung below vice-presidents. The post typically lasts 3 to 5 years before associates may be promoted.

Candidates from outside finance may need extra support early in their careers, which this programme aims to provide, Citi's Burroughs said.

Associates in the investment bank can work 80 to 90-hour weeks said Curtis, which may be a tough adjustment.

The programme's class includes a former US Department of Housing and Urban Development lawyer, a packaging engineer and Carolina Botero, 33, a Columbia University-trained dentist.

"They were welcoming to my background," said Botero, who hopes to ultimately land a job with Citi's investment bank. "They saw my value." REUTERS



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