Urban Partnership Bank-supported Intern Conference Promotes Diversity Across Chicago Finance

Urban Partnership Bank-supported Intern Conference Promotes Diversity Across Chicago Finance


On July 14th, over 200 interns and professionals from across Chicago’s financial industry filled a conference room at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for the third annual Summer Intern Career Conference organized by the Financial Services Pipeline Initiative (FSP Initiative). Most of the attendees were African-American or Latino, groups typically underrepresented in the financial industry. By the end of the day, interns had met peers and mentors to discuss their career opportunities and reinforce the need for their varied experiences within Chicago’s financial institutions.

Two years ago, Urban Partnership Bank helped found the FSP Initiative to increase “the representation of Latinos and African Americans, at all levels within Chicago’s financial industry”. As the only FSP member to predominantly serve African-American and Latino communities, Urban Partnership Bank has recognized the imperative for us to be a leader of this movement. In the past two years, the FSP Initiative has grown to include eighteen Chicago-area financial institutions including Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

How big is this challenge? African-Americans and Latinos make up 38% of the Chicago area population but are only employed in 22% of jobs in Chicago’s financial services industry. This lack of representation is more pronounced at higher levels of the industry: only 5 % of executives and senior-level managers are African-American or Latino. An explanation for this statistic was provided by a research report funded by the FSP Initiative. By surveying 9,660 employees in Chicago’s financial industry, the report showed that although African-Americans and Latinos are generally promoted to mid-level management at least as often as their peers, they are rarely promoted to senior management. In addition, African-Americans and Latinos have been 33% more likely to leave the financial industry compared to their peers. Indeed, the research identified retention as one of three areas of focus for the FSP Initiative, along with increasing recruitment/hiring in underrepresented communities as well as increasing opportunities for youth to explore careers in the financial industry. The full report can be read here.

Despite the gravity of this challenge, the tone of the conference’s nineteen speakers, most of whom are people of color in the financial industry, was optimistic even while acknowledging very real obstacles to success. One speaker who took a non-traditional path into the financial industry reflected that though “you’re going to be told ‘No’ more than you’re told ‘Yes’ […] it’s what you do when someone says ‘Yes’ that counts”. Another speaker encouraged interns to remain proud of their backgrounds and stated that “you have power when you’re a person of color in the financial industry […] it means you instantly stand out”.

Adriana Urdaneta Camacho, Commercial Banking Analyst at Urban Partnership Bank, recently joined the Initiative’s Steering Committee and has attended the conference annually since it began in 2014. She said she has been “impressed by the power of the people and institutions behind the initiative. The support of CEO’s is critical – they are in a position to effect change within their companies”. At the end of the day, it was Matthew Feldman, CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, who closed the conference, but rather than give a lengthy set of prepared remarks, he invited attendees to start a dialogue. Interns and professionals alike shared feelings of both empowerment and frustration. Feldman responded aptly, with affirmation and acknowledgement of the long road ahead – it was the kind of conversation those within the financial industry must continue to embrace.


*Members of the FSP Initiative include Ariel Investments, Bank of America, BMO Financial Group, the Chicago Community Trust, CME Group, Discover, Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Holland Capital Management, the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Loop Capital, Madison Dearborn Partners, Mesirow Financial, Northern Trust, The PrivateBank, Urban Partnership Bank, US Bank, and Wintrust

Source: "Bridging the Diversity Gap: Building African-American and Latino Talent Pipelines for the Financial Services Industry in Chicago"