Sunday, April 3, 2011
Wall Street firms are undertaking a case study of their own: how to attract lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) talent and make them feel comfortable in their respective environments. Firms are anxious to court LGBT students and senior hires and are nervous they're missing out on a group of top talent.
Goldman Sachs "won't be able to grow as a firm unless it attracts senior lateral LGBT talent," said Tami Rosen, a managing director in human capital at the firm. She was speaking on a panel about LGBT recruitment on Wall Street at the Out on the Street LGBT Leadership Summit panel hosted at Deutsche Bank's headquarters in New York on Wednesday.
Goldman isn't the only one -- firms across Wall Street are well-aware that the business still maintains an image of being dominated by white, heterosexual males, and that this image hurts their ability to recruit people from diverse backgrounds.
"It's seen as the realm of the white male heterosexual frat boy," said panelist Olly Wilson, an undergraduate at Duke University. "It turns [LGBT people] off from a career in banking."
The panel concluded that firms have encountered some difficulties in recruiting LGBT talent.
"We're all competing for talent," said Jeff Siminoff, global head of diversity and inclusion at Morgan Stanley and the moderator of the panel. "We blow it if we don't attract this group of students. We need to fully integrate LGBT community into our recruiting strategies."
Because recruitment happens so quickly, it can be tough to make inroads with LGBT students, according to panelist Erin Wilson, an MBA candidate at the Tuck School of Business and an upcoming summer associate in investment banking at Credit Suisse. Wilson was referring to the short amount of time recruiters spend recruiting on campuses, leaving them little time to spend attracting and establishing rapport with LGBT students who are reluctant to join an industry with finance's reputation.
Geography is also an issue. Panelist Jeff Davis, head of equities business and market strategy at Barclays Capital, said the firm mostly does diversity recruiting at schools in New York but at few schools elsewhere, which leads to a weak pipeline of diverse recruits.
Finance firms are responding by going outside of New York for specific LGBT recruiting events and creating materials focused on LGBT recruiting that stress a welcoming environment.
Credit Suisse, for example, recently attended a conference in Orlando, Florida held last June by the Consortium, an organization that promotes diversity and inclusion in American business. The bank attended specifically to scout for LGBT candidates and invited Wilson, among others, to attend a special recruiting event in New York at the bank's headquarters.
Goldman Sachs is making its marketing and brochure materials more LGBT-friendly to project an image of inclusion, said Rosen. She wants to start sending out different recruiters who will bring back a sampling of diverse candidates, instead of "people who will bring back the same people."
Firms are also becoming increasingly flexible and encouraging new LGBT hires to ask for what they want. Davis of Barclays, for example, said that he was used to a culture at Lehman that welcomed gays, so much so that they hosted a party called "Too Gay to Fail." When he moved to Barclays, he simply asked for what he wanted -- like domestic partner tax benefits.
"The more we asked for, the more senior management said yes," Davis said.
There's still much work to be done, but "this conference would not have taken place 10 years ago," Siminoff told FINS.
The summit will meet again next year to assess firms' recruiting strategies that they put in place to attract the best talent.
"Ultimately, what we want is what everyone else gets," Wilson of Duke said. "To be seen for who you are and the work your produce."
The summit was convened by Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
Write to Julie Steinberg