MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Award-winning Global Bank, Citi on How They’ve Made LGBT+ Inclusion & Mental Health Core Business Agendas

Citi is an award-winning global employer in its commitment to diversity and inclusion. There’s valuable learning other companies can gain in understanding how they approach their Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) agenda.

For our Pride issue, I had the opportunity to interview, Citi’s Bob Annibale who takes us inside the multi-national employer’s D&I success story.  Bob is Global Director, Citi Community Development and Inclusive Finance & Global Director, Citi Pride Affinity Co-Lead.

 

Citi ranked number 7 (out of 100) in the UK’s 2020 Stonewall Index, which assesses employers who are committed to achieving acceptance without exception for all LGBT staff. It’s a huge achievement. This Pride month 2020, what can you tell me about what this ranking means for the organisation?

We were indeed honoured to rank number 7 overall and number 1 as a financial institution on the Stonewall Equality List amongst so may esteemed institutions and organisations. Globally, our colleagues in Pride networks, allies and senior management were delighted and proud. The recognition reinforced our commitment to our strategy to be one of the most progressive employers and advocates for the rights of the LGBT+ community.

The Stonewall Index is based on a very exhaustive questionnaire and data.

We appreciate the thorough insights provided by Stonewall staff, who take us through our comparative strengths, achievements and areas where we can learn best practices.

 

What was the impetus for the bank to make Diversity & Inclusion a priority within the business?

Citi learned to appreciate early on that the talent, insights, adaptability, and skills that make our businesses understanding of clients as a successful global company has much to do with the diversity of our employees.

In fact, I can recall a commitment to diversity and inclusion throughout my entire career at Citi, which has spanned more than three decades. We began with a few employee networks, mainly Women and Pride. Today, our focus areas have expanded exponentially. Our Affinity networks vary by location, but may also include Black, Asian, Roots, Veteran, Parents and Families, Hispanic and Disabilities.

What has been critical to every network’s success has been the role of allies and the understanding that we all have multiple identities. Understanding intersectionality and the rich mosaic of our identities, experiences and communities is fundamental. I am thrilled to walk through a Citi office in NY or London and see the diversity of colleagues, by race, gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, nationality, languages spoken and all that is unspoken.

 

How embedded in the culture would you say LGBT inclusion is now in the UK & US? What are some of the policies and practices that have supported Citi to achieve this?

LGBT+ inclusion at Citi has advanced significantly in the US, with our largest employee presence, and in the UK. Particularly in the US, we continue not only to expand the number of Citi Pride networks, but also to publicly advocate for LGBT+ rights. Citi has joined with leading LGBT+, civil rights groups, and other firms four times to submit Amicus Briefs to the US Supreme Court in cases involving marriage equality and equal access to services for the LGBT+ community.

Over the last few years in the UK, we publicly and strongly advocated for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, which was finally achieved through an act of the UK Parliament only last year.

We celebrate what we have achieved, but do we are working across many countries and jurisdictions to do much more. We have and will continue to expand opportunities for employees to identify themselves as LGBT+, for example, through our Voice of the Employee survey, currently reaching over 82% of our over 200,000 employees, and we continue to expand those who can do so in our HR Self-ID process. We are going country by country to extend partner benefits, where permitted by law.

In the past year, through the efforts of many, and particularly colleagues in Diversity, HR, Legal and Benefits, we have made great progress in advancing Citi’s LGBT+ progressive agenda across all our regions. This month, we are launching Citi’s first LGBT+ Leadership Development Program in partnership with Out and Equal. This first-of-its-kind interactive, virtual program features 1-hour modules on intersectionality, authentic leadership, executive presence, articulating the business case for inclusion and more.

 

What role has senior leadership played toward the success of the D&I agenda?

Citi’s senior leadership has played a critical role in the success of diversity and inclusion at the company. I often reflect on my own experience as an “out” man at Citi, someone who has benefited from working in countries as diverse as Greece, Bahrain, Kenya, the UK and US.

Citi’s seniors introduced, for example, benefits for same-sex partners nearly three decades ago. Around 25 years ago, when faced with a career opportunity that would require a physical move, neither my partner, a Brazilian, nor I, an American, had any permanent rights to remain in the UK.

Citi recognised our relationship as partners, long before any city, state or country did, in terms of benefits and formal recognition of us as a family. For mobility and immigration issues, such recognition was crucial. By extending all benefits to my partner, Citi respected the integrity of my family and reduced the barriers to our remaining in London and pursuing our respective careers.

I recall, perhaps now 20 years ago, being frankly surprised and delighted to have invited to a Christmas party by our then CEO and the invitation being made out to me and, Dr E. Fernandes, my now husband, as that demonstrated the values at the top. We have worked on continuing to broaden and embed these throughout the organisation ever since.

 

Citi is also seen to be a leading employer in terms of supporting staff mental wellbeing. Can you describe what this agenda means to Citi?

As we aim to hire and retain an excellent and diverse workforce, where everyone feels included and valued, we recognise that mental well-being must be supported. In the UK, we offer mental health training to help managers recognise when employees may be experiencing issues that impact their mental health and to provide guidance on how to respond and offer support. We are working to expand such efforts to the U.S.

In 2019, we started offering enhanced mental health benefits for employees and their families, including telemedicine based behavioural health options, on-site mental health professionals at our largest locations, and a behaviour modification therapy program designed to build better sleep habits and improve mental health.

 

There are commonalities between mental health, sexual identity, and sexuality, all being invisible attributes which are highly stigmatised in workplaces. How does the organisation approach ensuring staff facing multiple stigmas are supported? 

Stonewall data for the UK indicates that in 2018, 35 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees have hidden they are LGBT+ at work because they are afraid of discrimination. This rises to 58 percent for younger workers aged 18-24, many returning to the closet when they begin their careers. Senior leaders have a responsibility to remove barriers to inclusion of LGBT+ and other underrepresented groups in the workplace, so that no employees feel stigmatised or that they have to hide who they are, which can be detrimental to mental health.

We are engaging colleagues in creative ways to address workplace micro-inequities head on, including training our managers and HR teams to recognise and call out potential unconscious biases.

We have created interactive sessions to recognise common unconscious biases and hold one another accountable to calling these out when we see them. With the understanding that creating a diverse and inclusive culture is the responsibility of all of our employees, not just those who identify with a certain gender, ethnicity or affinity.

 

How has the bank supported staff mental health during the Covid-19 crisis both in the UK and US? Has having an already established workplace mental health strategy in place made a difference?

Our banks have boosted mental health awareness programmes, training and services. Now the Covid-19 crisis is showing how effective those commitments can be.

“It’s not just about improving access to mental health services when issues arise,” says Jenny Grey, Managing Director, Head of EMEA Human Resources, Citi. “We’re seeing the importance of efforts aimed at building personal resilience.”

In 2020, with the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 global pandemic, our employees’ health and well-being continues to be our highest priority. We continue to offer virtual mental health services and have created an internal portal for employees to access health and well-being resources, which have expanded to include increased information on how to balance working remotely.

 

After scoring in the top 10 of the Stonewall Index, what’s the next goal for Citi with its LBGT+ inclusion agenda?

We have made great progress, benefiting from shared best practices from other employers and organisations like Stonewall. However, we know that we must continue to strive for even greater LGBT+ inclusion in our offices in the U.K. and in the many countries around the world where we operate.

That means working through some complicated jurisdictions and societies as well as collaboration with leading local LGBT+ organisations and other employers. It has taken decades in the US, for example, to get where we are and yet many of the civil rights that we have achieved as a community are still challenged by cities and states, so we must be vigilant and aligned with others committed to employee, housing and other rights.

 

Is there any advice you’d offer other employers considering adopting a D&I strategy within their business, particularly around supporting LGBT+ and mental health inclusion?

The most effective strategy internally is our vast grassroots employee-led network, which spans 28 locations. We have incredible, diverse and talented local LGBT+ leaders in our company, and when we listen to them and harness their ideas and insights, it helps us drive progressive change and create meaningful connections that support community and mental health.

 

Please add anything else you’d like to share

This is a very challenging time for people in many countries, from some of the richest in the OECD, to others in emerging economies. COVID-19 has reached many and while the responses by governments have varied, as do their resources, with illness and tragic deaths reaching people of all backgrounds, the most vulnerable have, as is so often the case, been impacted disproportionally.

From what data we have in the US and the UK, for example, lower-income, Black and Hispanic populations, the homeless and those living in dense conditions have been disproportionally lost to the disease.

For many, staying at home is challenging because of large families and children in small homes, but for others who are alone, seniors, single people and for those LGBT+ individuals unable to access their families and community organisations, it can put great pressures on their mental health and well-being.

We have been very concerned to do all that we can at Citi to support our employees and our Pride networks have been reaching out to members, engaging, arranging video calls, quiz nights and virtual drinks.

For those who are not yet OUT at work and, perhaps at home, such isolation can be very challenging and, in addition to the confidential and free access to counselling that Citi offers, it is so important for all of us to reach out to colleagues, neighbours and friends to be as present and supportive as we can through this pandemic.

 

As a senior out executive, Bob champions Citi’s commitment to supporting LGBT+ colleagues, clients, and communities. He co-leads the Citi Pride global affinity group, working to promote LGBT inclusion and rights globally, to expand Citi Pride Networks in more countries, enhance internal policies, and advocate for the community externally. He and Citi have opposed proposed/actual hostile legislation, in a number of US states. Bob worked with seniors at Citi and PinkNews to convene the five party leaders in Stormont for the first time in nearly two years to raise awareness of LGBT issues and marriage equality in Northern Ireland.  Citi also became a founding signatory supporting ‘Business for Love Equality’ in Northern Ireland. Bob serves as a Founding Member of SAGE’s Housing Advisory Council supporting the senior LGBT community in the U.S.

About the Author

Heather Kelly is the founder of Aura Wellbeing, a consultancy providing workplace wellness strategy, coaching and training services to employers. She’s also Content Director for Make a Difference Summit US and Online Editor for Make a Difference News. Heather led the development and operation of the Workplace Wellbeing Index, during her time working for the UK’s largest mental health charity, Mind. In her earlier career she worked as a photographer, a journalist and a senior manager in the insurance industry. She’s passionate about inspiring more empathy and awareness in workplaces toward normalising mental health and in her spare time Heather teaches photography to teens as part of a charity projects in London and Spain, she’s an avid runner and experimental chef for recipes promoting healthy minds.