How a regional Southern bank grew racial diversity among senior leadership to 15%

March 3, 2023, 1:12 PM UTC
Dominica Groom, head of diversity and inclusion at Truist
Dominica Groom, executive vice president, chief inclusion and diversity officer at Truist
Courtesy of Truist

Good morning!

Companies still struggle to increase racial diversity beyond the entry- and mid-level ranks. So it caught my eye when I saw that Truist, a regional bank in the Southeast, increased its representation of racially and ethnically diverse senior leaders—senior vice president and above—from 12% to 15% in just two years. 

While the increase might appear small, the jump exceeds industry norms. Financial services remain a fickle industry, and leadership diversity has remained relatively stagnant over the past several years. As of 2020, Black and Hispanic employees at the senior level collectively accounted for 7% of employees, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. And Asian senior-level employees accounted for 7%. I spoke to Truist’s chief inclusion and diversity officer, Dominica Groom, to understand the bank’s approach to improving representation at the top.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Fortune: What about Truist’s culture has helped propel the company to achieve its diversity goal?

Dominica Groom: We hit our goal of 15% ethnically diverse representation one year earlier than expected because we had leadership support as far as the board. We have a dedicated executive-level D&I counsel that talks about this quarterly, and we regularly present to the board and let them ask us deep and challenging questions. 

We focused on representation at the top because statistics show it’s much easier to attract diverse talent when individuals of diverse backgrounds can look at senior leadership levels and see themselves. 

What do you view as the unique challenge of promoting DEI within financial services compared to other industries?

There’s a misperception about banking, and people have a narrow view of it. Like any big organization, we have a robust and comprehensive operation. For most people in the banking industry, once they get involved in financial services, it’s a long-term career. It’s just a matter of being able to attract talent. We have the culture, benefits, and commitment to growth and opportunity. So we need to do a better job of showcasing that and making financial services less intimidating.

How are you attracting underrepresented talent? 

We work with HBCU organizations as a prospective employer and community partner. We just gave Coppin State University in Baltimore $2 million to support the development of their student population, help students finish school, and identify career opportunities. 

We also teach courses at HBCUs. For example, our investment banking team went to Howard University and participated in an initiative on investment banking. We also conduct financial literacy training because many young students of color incur much debt. So there are a lot of nontraditional efforts to develop loyalty, which translates into students looking at us to pursue opportunities because of the investment we’ve made as a community partner.

How are you promoting colleagues from hourly branch roles into salaried leadership positions?

The importance is understanding what individuals seek. Some teammates are 100% satisfied with being at the branch, and they’ve made a long-term career out of that. But we also hold conversations with individuals to help them understand what other opportunities are at Truist.

We offer a host of career services, including career coaches, that everybody can access. And through our performance management process, we encourage teammates at every level to create development goals. They may not understand what their growth trajectory looks like or what that path is, but we can connect them with the right people.

We also leverage our big talent platform, allowing us to share opportunities and showcase teammates from different career paths. Maybe they were a teller, became a branch leader, and now they’ve moved into the corporate capacity. We try to showcase those stories in real time because it’s relatable.

Amber Burton

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