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Banking diversity push sees Citigroup recruit US associates outside of finance

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Faced with intense competition for talent and pressure to meet diversity goals, banks are becoming more creative in their hiring, with Citigroup Inc recruiting U.S. associates with no banking experience or business degree this summer.

Launched this year, Citigroup’s pilot program aims to strengthen its diversity goals by recruiting associates from underrepresented minorities as well as non-traditional backgrounds.

The group is made up of 10 recruits, including lawyers, a dentist and an engineer – and eight of them have not attended business school.

“We try to catch them right before they get into business school to give them a different opportunity,” said Paul Burroughs, chief operating officer and North American head of corporate banking for the world bank based in New York.

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

“The associate role is typically a post-MBA role, and it’s considered a career role,” Curtis said, referring to the Master of Business Administration.

Citi is betting that non-MBA applicants will bring different industry expertise that will help their investment and corporate banking teams.

Its program is also expanding its recruiting network as banks face stiff competition from peers and tech companies, which has driven up salaries. They are also under pressure from investors and policymakers to increase diversity, which has traditionally been lacking among senior executives.

In 2018, about 26% of employees in the financial services industry in the United States were women and 1% were black, according to data from the US Government Accountability Office.

In 2021, 40.6% of Citi’s mid-level and senior staff worldwide were women, up from 37% in 2018, according to its disclosures. In the United States, 8.1% of Citi’s mid-level and senior employees were black, up from 6% in 2018.

Citi, JPMorgan Chase & Co and others expanded recruiting to more universities and cities, and offered training for people in other careers to attract talent for internships and entry-level banking positions.

Citi received 125 applications for 10 places in the new program. Two are Hispanic and eight are black, the bank said.

Candidates take a crash course of about three months in finance before joining the expanded class of associates in July, a two-step position from interns and analysts, and one step below vice presidents. The position typically lasts three to five years before associates can be promoted.

Applicants from outside finance may need additional support early in their careers, which this program aims to provide, Citi’s Burroughs said.

Investment banking associates can work 80 to 90 hours a week, Curtis said, which can be a tough adjustment.

The class in the program includes a former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development attorney, a packaging engineer and Carolina Botero, 33, a Columbia University-trained dentist.

“They welcomed my journey,” said Botero, who hopes to eventually land a job at Citi’s investment bank. “They saw my value.”

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall; editing by Michelle Price, Megan Davies and Jonathan Oatis)

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