In what began as a recognition of workplace imbalances and inequities, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts are now evolving into a way of strengthening companies with a broad chorus of voices that add measurable value to the business.
In a conversation with PYMNTS, Ari Montgomery, director of talent acquisition and DE&I at embedded banking platform Treasury Prime talked about how her life journey — from being an orphaned infant in Calcutta to an adopted child in Portland — has afforded her a deep understanding of the need for DE&I, especially in the finance sector, as a critical step to future growth.
“It was a different day, a different age, very different than today, and I was put in a lot of situations in my life where I was the token,” she said. “It would’ve been great to see more representation and not constantly feel like the ‘other.’”
As it turns out, that reality lit a fire inside the executive as her business life bloomed, a path that ultimately brought her to Treasury Prime and gave her a meaningful opportunity to focus on improving DE&I in the workplace.
“I don’t think it’ll be a shocker to anyone, but FinTechs and banks are typically somewhat homogenous,” she said, “which can be slightly dangerous [having] employees that may approach problems in a similar way and troubleshoot with a similar approach.”
Explaining that diversity is not just about race and gender, but also about socioeconomic class, education level, physical ability, religion, upbringing, seniority and more, Montgomery said all these facets make hiring and highlighting workers from underrepresented minorities impactful on business.
“Representation matters,” Montgomery said. “To be able to see a board or executives that look like you shows that there’s not a glass ceiling. It’s important to appeal to decision makers that diversity affects the bottom line and ultimately has a positive impact on the business.”
Employees bring their different perspectives to decision making and “ultimately better understand our customers’ demographics … enhance their experience and hopefully expand our reach,” she said.
As someone who “preaches” the value of team fit within an organization over culture fit, Montgomery said she aims to “embrace and promote differences.”
Given a broad mandate by co-founders Chris Dean and Jim Brusstar, Montgomery and Treasury Prime Vice President of People Brandi McVay set out to measure the extent of the DE&I challenges facing the firm and the sector.
In July 2021, the two executives did an internal DE&I assessment and found its ranks were 73% male and 75% white. In just over a year, she said the company is 59% male and 62% white, 5% Latino, 6% Black, 16% Asian and 9% identifying as two or more races.
Beyond the backing of senior management, she said Treasury Prime has also made training and coaching central to its DE&I mission, with “interviewing 101” a foundation of the hiring process, teaching managers how to avoid tokenism and be inclusive interviewers.
Here again, that supports the business value of DE&I, as it combats things like unconscious bias, representation, microaggressions, “what’s offensive and what’s antiquated when it comes to language,” and ultimately imparting “how to be a better ally.”
Empowering Employees With DE&I
Doing quarterly polls of employees to reveal where work is needed in areas like “making sure that we’re recruiting and retaining underrepresented talent, making sure that we have a diverse funnel for hiring managers to then pick from,” she said critical lessons emerge.
“I’m a big proponent of making people feel mildly uncomfortable,” she said. “I think it stretches people to reach outside of their comfort zone. We’re also building out employee resource groups for our employees to feel like they have belonging.”
As inclusivity gains recognition as a social and business booster, she pointed out that employees who feel their “voices are heard” are five times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. At the same time, employees who say their company provides equal opportunity are nearly four times more likely to say they’re proud to work there, while employees who said they’re able to be their authentic selves at work are nearly three times more likely to say they’re proud to work for their company.