Interact customer AllianceBernstein – commonly referred to internally as AB – has continually championed Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) and its important role in moving the firm forward. AB is committed to building a culture of diverse perspectives to lead it into the future and foster an inclusive environment where all employees feel valued and are treated fairly.
This exemplary approach serves as an inspirational model for all organizations seeking to cultivate a truly inclusive environment, and there are lessons we can all learn and apply to our own organizations’ DE&I initiatives.
A snapshot of AllianceBernstein’s DE&I highlights:
- AB has received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Corporate Equality Index for six years in a row.
- The CEO of AB, Seth Bernstein, is a member of CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- In December 2019, AB hired a dedicated Diversity Talent Partner, Keri Clarke. Keri prioritizes focus areas including an action plan for attracting Black talent into more mid-career and senior-level roles.
- In 2015, the firm hired Janessa Cox-Irvin as its Chief Diversity Officer, who has since built out a team fully dedicated to supporting diversity and inclusion efforts at the firm.
The organization has continued to take meaningful steps towards promoting diversity and inclusion across the industry.
Supporting DE&I from the very top
The organization’s leadership takes an active and progressive approach to DE&I, signaling a commitment to fairness, equality, and inclusivity, fostering a sense of belonging, empowerment, and motivation within the organization.
- In June 2020, AB CEO Seth Bernstein wrote an open letter to the employees addressing the steps the firm is taking to advance racial equity.
- Additionally, the firm welcomed Global Head of D&I Janessa Cox-Irvin, CEO for Asia ex-Japan Ajai M. Kaul, CFA, and Head of Human Capital Cathy Spencer were appointed to the Operating Committee.
- AB’s leaders are unwavering in their commitment to fostering a welcoming environment that will attract all types of talented people. The firm has taken concrete steps to ensure that its senior leaders model and are held accountable for meeting AB’s diversity & inclusion goals.
- Since senior leaders are required to be role models for inclusive behaviors, an Inclusive leadership training program has been launched for partners, senior vice presidents, and vice presidents globally, which examines how their actions, regardless of intent, can have an impact on their teams.
Cultivating Diverse Talent:
AB is committed to cultivating diverse talent. To help support the employees, the firm offers leadership development programs that cater to the needs of various groups:
- Women’s Leadership Council: The women’s leadership program strives to cultivate an inclusive and diverse environment at AB in which women can build and expand on their leadership roles.
- Career Catalyst Program: The Career Catalyst program is a six-month coaching program that pairs senior vice presidents with female vice presidents and ethnically diverse vice presidents and is designed to provide participants with the tools to effectively manage their career development.
- Employee Resource Group (ERG) Leadership Workshop: The half-day workshop for ERG co-chairs and their leadership teams focuses on three key areas: positioning the ERG as a strategic resource, understanding how to meet the needs of the organization and contribute to the business, and gaining the support needed from senior leaders to deliver on desired objectives.
Investing in Emerging, Diverse Talent:
AB’s Sophomore Leadership Program is for undergraduate students who have completed their sophomore year of college. It is designed to provide firsthand exposure to careers in finance to a select group of students from underrepresented populations (women, people of color, LGBTQ). The nine-week paid summer internship program includes one week of training and rotations through two different departments. Each project-based assignment lasts four weeks. The program currently hosts interns in New York and Nashville.
Employee Resource Groups:
AB’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are at the heart of the diversity & inclusion efforts. These voluntary, cross-divisional, employee-led groups were created to accelerate the advancement of employees from traditionally underrepresented groups, the allies who support those groups, and people who share a common purpose, interest, or background. By sharing information through education and reaching out to clients and communities, ERGs contribute to business development and the recruitment, retention, and professional development of employees globally. AB currently hosts 7 ERGs with over 20 global chapters.
These groups include:
- AB Asians: AB Asians is committed to developing and modeling the leadership of its membership, showcasing it throughout the firm by promoting an inclusive community of diverse cultures.
- AB Out: AB Out promotes and supports the firm’s efforts to hire and retain members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community and create a diverse and inclusive workplace where LGBT employees can develop and reach their fullest potential.
- AB Veterans: AB Veterans works to raise awareness of the issues relevant to veterans by providing a community for its members, as well as leadership that supports the diversity & inclusion efforts.
- Adelante: Adelante is dedicated to building awareness of the Hispanic-Latino community by leveraging cultural strengths to enable professional growth, promote teamwork, and generate networking opportunities for its members.
- Black Employee Resource Group (BERG) is dedicated to positively impacting the firm by promoting the advancement of black professionals, from recruitment to mentorship to professional development.
- Family Matters sponsors programs and events that enhance and celebrate the family lives and traditions of AB’s diverse employee population. By providing employees with relevant tips, strategies, and networking opportunities to foster burgeoning talent and support healthy and happy familial relationships.
- Synergy is dedicated to cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment for women where they can expand their leadership roles. Through female-led initiatives, Synergy works to promote a culture of mentorship that motivates and empowers women to advance in their careers.
The ERGs continued to create virtual events during the pandemic and hosted programming to build a strong sense of firmwide community, even while apart. A few examples of their work throughout the pandemic – promoted and recapped on its intranet, The Loop – include:
- AB Out hosted a weekly movie club, facilitated a WFH check-in group, coordinated RuPaul’s Drag Race discussion group, and virtual trivia gatherings. In addition, AB OUT provided meals at both lunch and dinner for more than 20 LGBTQ youths being sheltered by the local organization Launch Pad in partnership with the Oasis Center in Nashville.
- BERG worked to coordinate and host virtual panels and discussions on race. More than 1,000 global AB employees joined BERG Unplugged, an open discussion on the recent tragedies affecting the Black community. This forum provided employees with a platform to share, listen, and learn from one another’s perspectives and experiences. In addition, BERG hosted a lunch and learn with a panel of speakers to educate how AB addresses the socioeconomic disparities in the black communities through portfolio management and how they empower clients to be part of the solution.
- Synergy Americas hosted a lunch series with female leaders at the firm, while the EMEA region hosted Coffee and Connect sessions. Both of these virtual events foster insightful discussions with female leaders.
- Adelante: The Nashville chapter recently teamed up with Nashville Symphony to discuss the healing aspects of music and the arts. At the start of pandemic, Adelante Nashville shared resources to help colleagues cope with the new working environment, which included a reading list of Hispanic/Latino authors, links to virtual museum and travel tours, free workout apps, film selections from The Cinema Tropical Collection, and more.
- AB Asians made donations to Covid-19 relief efforts to organizations in Nashville and New York.
- The Family Matters ERG hosted a webinar on college admissions and coordinated virtual afternoon reading programs for kids.
The Loop helps celebrate the firm’s diverse perspectives, facilitate discussion and learning among colleagues, and share messages from senior leadership that reaffirm the commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Celebration: Virtual Pride and AB News
Global Pride celebrations are an annual tradition that all offices look forward to, and although 2020 forced many celebrations to become virtual events, the Loop played an important role in connecting staff. This example is still valuable today as many organizations have permanently adopted hybrid working models or – like AB – operate globally and need impactful ways to bring everybody together to celebrate events like Pride.
The Loop team added a Pride widget to the homepage that linked to information about attending the virtual firmwide event, resources from local AB Out chapters, and downloadable resources including custom Zoom backgrounds featuring the Pride flag.
As a hub for AB news, the Loop also helps publicize firmwide achievements in diversity and inclusion, such as the perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index and the recent honor as an Investment News Diversity Champion.
Ongoing Learning: Racial Justice & Anti-Racism Library
The events of summer 2020 sparked thoughtful discussion among AB colleagues, and a consistent piece of feedback received by the diversity and inclusion team was the strong desire for more resources and more ways to learn about being a meaningful ally in the fight against racism.
The Loop team worked with the diversity & inclusion team to build a new Racial Justice & Anti-Racism Library on the intranet that connected global employees with e-learnings, books, visual media, and materials for children all centered on racial justice and anti-racist behavior. The library continues to grow and expand, and the content has been visited more than 1,200 times.
Messages from Senior Leadership: Addressing Global Events
AB President and CEO Seth Bernstein uses the Loop to share messages with the firm that range from business updates and congratulations on promotions to letters of support in the wake of tragic events. In addition to the public statements made about the firm’s dedication to promoting racial equity, he continues to compose messages to AllianceBernstein staff addressing events that are impacting colleagues. In March 2021, a message was posted on the From the CEO news widget on the Loop homepage, condemning the racially motivated violence in Georgia and emphasizing the firm’s solidarity with members of the Asian and Pacific Islander community across the globe.
Recently, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation released the 2020 results for the Corporate Equality Index. Alliance & Bernstein received a score of 100 and was recognized as one of the best places to work for LGBTQ equality.