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Zions Bank Hires Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

Neelam Chand says she’ll be focusing on three main objectives: Perception, representation and culture.

Nicola McIntosh Jul 18, 2019

The conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion has been happening for two decades at Zions Bank. But that conversation will now be greatly amplified with the addition of a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer to lead the bank’s efforts.

Neelam Chand joined Zions Bank in May, bringing with her a decade of experience crafting strategic plans, implementing inclusive messaging campaigns, facilitating critical dialogue on issues of equity, and leading training and workshops.

She serves on the Salt Lake City Human Rights MLK Commission Board and the University of Utah Tanner Center for Human Rights Advisory Board.

Neeland Chand of Zions Bank
Neelam Chand

Why did Zions Bank create the position of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) officer?

Our CEO Scott Anderson’s vision is to embed DEI work in all aspects of Zions Bank. He feels that DEI is one of the top priorities in making sure that we’re a welcoming environment, that we are recruiting from a diverse pool, and that we are representing our local communities in Idaho and Utah in terms of demographics.

What are your goals and objectives in this role?

My methodology and how I’m going to approach this work is in three distinct, metrics-driven dimensions:

Perception

What is the general perception of Zions Bank both externally and internally? How are we highlighting diverse narratives and perspectives?  

Representation

Because diversity begets diversity, how are we strategically reflecting our diverse workforce and clients within our organization? What do our outreach, hiring and retention efforts look like?

Culture

What is the day to day experience of our employees and how are we fostering a climate where employees can be their authentic selves? Are we flexible to change?

The plan is to answer these questions thoughtfully and intentionally, identify the gaps and create a strategy that involves all three dimensions and engages our business partners throughout the organization. I know this all sounds nice in theory, but for me, all three areas are tethered to measurable and tangible outcomes that are both qualitative and quantitative. Really transforming our ideals into action.

man and woman talking at a table outdoors
Steve Verno will promote Zions’ DEI mission across the bank’s footprint in Idaho and Utah.

Creating platforms for education and critical dialogue is also important. Every quarter we’ll focus on different social topics and how they manifest into the workplace. For example, during the third quarter we’ll be focusing on inclusion and why it matters, the power of empathy, and how we, individually, contribute to a workplace environment.

To keep this work from being siloed, regional leaders will promote Zions DEI mission in a broader way within their scope—an initiative lead by Steve Verno, SVP and DEI Senior Business Program Manager.

This strategic approach is organic and can change quickly. In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The goal here is that we try it out and recycle the efforts that worked well.

What are the strengths of Zions Bank’s DEI initiatives?

The first thing right off the bat is the commitment from leadership. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with our executive vice presidents one-on-one, and every single one of them expressed their high level of commitment to this work. Typically, in organizations, the first step to DEI work is to get buy-in from leadership. At Zions, it’s already done, which is incredible. Our leaders are open and ready to move the needle on all DEI fronts.

Secondly, there are allies and DEI champions, from Human Resources to Marketing and Communications, who have already laid the foundational work needed in all our business lines. They are fully supportive and ready to continue the DEI journey with me.

Zions Bank defines Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as follows:
Diversity

Diversity means a variety of thoughts, perspectives, experiences, ideas and backgrounds which are typically rooted in one’s identity – and more specifically, the representation of historically marginalized identities and communities. This includes gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, ability, veteran status, citizenship status, or any of these intersecting identities.

Equity

Equity means to create access for all employees. We recognize that there are cultural, social and environmental barriers at the workplace that can directly impact an employee’s success.

Inclusion

Inclusion means that every employee feels like they belong. We strive for an environment that allows all identities to be fully engaged and to feel valued.

What’s your biggest challenge coming into this role?

I’m coming from a higher educational institution where everybody is talking about diversity issues. And if we weren’t talking about it, our students were forcing us to talk about it. Coming into a corporate setting, everyone is approaching this work at all levels of the continuum. Because this is a collective effort, the challenge will be making sure that everyone feels comfortable to fully engage and have the tools they need to navigate tough conversations. It’s going to be essential for me to distill these complex ideas into something that resonates with all employees.

Another challenge I’ve noticed is when companies hire a person dedicated to diversity, they want to see change almost immediately. Institutional change takes years and years. We are talking about shifting mindsets, behaviors, and culture – that’s something that doesn’t take place overnight. There’s going to be some managing of expectations and letting people know that just because I’m hired, change is not instant. Everyone has a role to play and that takes time.

What excites you about your new role?

A lot of businesses in Utah are trying to address DEI in the workplace. Zions Bank is at an advantage because we understand Utah, we are home-grown, and we are positioned to leverage our reputation as Utah’s staple institution to lead these discussions in a way that a lot of other companies can’t. That’s exciting!

I’m also joining the Zions Bank team at a time when our Utah demographics are shifting rapidly. 1 out of every 5 Utahn is a person of color, and by 2065 more than half of our population will be communities of color. Salt Lake City alone has become a multicultural hub for the state. Zions Bank recognizes this shift. We are not only thinking about what needs to be done now, but we are also planning for the future in innovative ways.

What strengths do you bring to Zions’ DEI initiative?

With my background in marketing and communications, my philosophy is to humanize diversity work and use that as a lens to guide my practice. Oftentimes when it comes to DEI work, we tend to focus on the business aspects – the numbers, the quotas, the strategies. Although quantitative data is important to drive commitment, we forget that DEI work is about the human experience and connection. It’s about emotional intelligence and understanding various perspectives and viewpoints. It’s about listening, introspection and practicing empathy. And when identities have been historically marginalized for centuries in the US and continue to be underrepresented in the workforce, DEI work becomes very personal.

Is an employer who values diversity important to you? Join the Zions Bank team and be part of a talented workforce that reflects our diverse customer base and is dedicated to the clients, communities and shareholders we serve. Browse job openings or get tailored job recommendations based on your interests. Zions Bank is committed to being a premier employer of choice.

Nicola McIntosh is Social Media manager for Zions Bank.

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