Banks diversity push sees Citigroup recruit associates in U.S. from outside finance

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FILE PHOTO: People walk beneath a Citibank branch logo in the financial district of San Francisco, California

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall

NEW YORK – Facing intense competition for talent and pressure to hit diversity goals, banks are getting more creative in their hiring, with Citigroup Inc recruiting U.S. associates this summer without banking experience or business degrees.

Launched this year, Citigroup’s pilot program aims to boost its diversity goals by recruiting associates from under-represented minorities as well as nontraditional backgrounds.

The group consists of 10 recruits, including lawyers, a dentist and an engineer – and eight 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 programs 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.

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

Its program also expands its recruiting network as banks face cutthroat 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% of employees in the U.S. financial services industry were women and 1% were Black, according to data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

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

Citi, JPMorgan Chase & Co 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 program. Two are Hispanic and eight are Black, the bank said.

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

Candidates from outside finance may need extra support early in their careers, which this program 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 program’s class includes a former U.S. 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.”

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

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