During the pandemic, the banking sector — like many other industries —made big commitments to invest in their communities. In the time since, how have their actions met their bold statements? We provide some insights into best-in-class companies in the banking sector, at least as far as social impact commitments are concerned.
In 2020, there was an uptick of diversity and inclusion activity such as increased online resources, internal training, and external courses. TD Group facilitated ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’, a series of virtual events where leaders and employees discussed racial injustice. Fifth Third commemorated Pride Month by holding a virtual celebration with talks from Fifth Third leaders and representatives from PFLAG National. The uptick of activity underscores US banks’ commitment to improving D&I in the workplace and beyond. This is complemented by setting D&I targets, which suggests a collective drive to make lasting change.
Banks engage with their consumers a lot through their advertising campaigns. They frequently produce campaigns which address societal issues. However, the better campaigns go beyond just promotion to become actionable in supporting the issue. For example, Citibank launched the ‘Now That You See Me’ campaign which focused on visibility of the transgender and non-binary community. Although the campaign highlights an important issue, it does not drive change. To drive change, campaigns need targets and a clear call to action. Bank of New York Mellon’s ‘It’s Okay’ mental health campaign encouraged employees to share personal messages and has had an impact throughout the organization. In a similar vein, State Street’s ‘Fearless Girl’ campaign focused on increasing gender diversity within the workplace. This is an excellent campaign as there is a clear call to action together with clear target and actionable ways to meet these.
Many companies in the banking sector have made big commitments to social impact projects. JP Morgan Chase & Co announced a “$350 million five-year global commitment to foster Black-, Latinx-, women-owned and other underserved small businesses”. Wells Fargo & Co “committed to donating $1 billion through 2025 to help address the full spectrum of housing affordability – from homelessness and transitional housing to affordable rentals and homeownership”. Stating that a company intends to do good, however, is not enough. It’s important that commitments lead to meaningful change, rather than simply “commodify a movement”. There must be internal activity to support commitments, which should be monitored to hold companies accountable. Furthermore, the commitments must be viewed in relation to the size of the company. As per their 2020 balance sheets, JP Morgan total assets are $3.21 trillion, and Wells Fargo are $1.77 trillion. Considering this, these amounts are relatively insignificant.
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