Commerce's new DEI leader brings passion and commitment to her role
Commerce Bank’s new senior vice president and director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), Felecia Hogan, has come a long way during her 28 years with the organization. She started working at the bank to pay her way through college, encoding checks at night while attending school during the day. In the years that followed, she steadily rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a senior vice president of operations before being named to her new role in June.
Leading DEI efforts for a large organization with team members in 11 states is a great deal of responsibility, but Hogan is excited about the opportunity. “It’s a huge honor,” she says. “DEI is very important to me. At the end of the day, I want all the people who work here to know Commerce is a place where they can grow their careers and have all the right tools in place to help them succeed.”
Despite being new to her role, Hogan has a long history of being involved in Commerce’s DEI efforts, and she’s proud to take the reins of the DEI programs that the bank has had in place for many years. For example, she played a prominent role in the establishment of VIBE, Commerce’s multicultural employee resource group (ERG), and has been a sponsor of the group ever since.
“I’ve really had a front-row seat to Commerce’s DEI journey, which started a long time ago,” she says. “It’s been an evolution that’s included training sessions, our ERGs — which help our team members find a sense of belonging — and our ‘Listen, Talk and Learn’ sessions, where people can share their experiences, be vulnerable and have courageous conversations.”
She sees her new responsibilities as an expansion of the work she’s already been doing. “It’s going to allow me to play an even greater part in building an environment for everyone, where every group is accepted, valued and respected,” she says. “I want to ensure that people have the ability to thrive and be their authentic selves as they contribute to our organization’s success.”
Hogan says a primary element of her role as DEI director will be to help reinforce Commerce’s core values throughout the organization. “Our values are the foundation that shapes how we live and work,” she adds. “They call out our commitment to DEI at work and in our communities. And that commitment helps us communicate openly and candidly with each other. It helps us trust each other and treat each other with respect.”
As director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Hogan will set the strategic direction and manage operational oversight of the goals Commerce has set for itself. She notes that she will work closely with the bank’s leadership and talent management teams to establish the direction the organization will take with its DEI programs, and to ensure that the bank is held accountable for making measurable progress on its goals.
Hogan says these efforts are a critical part of retaining and attracting talented people. “People want to understand that diversity is valued,” she notes. “They want to know if we have policies and practices in place to make things more equitable, whether our environments are inclusive, and whether diversity is celebrated, not just tolerated. Job candidates are going to look for organizations with a strong culture of diversity.”
The ultimate goal of Commerce’s many DEI programs, Hogan says, is to encourage team members to learn about other people’s experiences. “We want everyone to lean into their discomfort and diversify their circles of people they interact with,” she says. “We’ve had more than 2,000 people participate in various sessions where they share their lived experiences. We all have to meet people who aren’t like us in order to understand them better.”
If Hogan sounds deeply passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion, that’s because she is. According to Sara Foster, Commerce’s executive vice president of talent and corporate administration, Hogan’s passion is one of the qualities that made her the ideal candidate to continue growing the momentum of the bank’s DEI efforts.
“I’ve worked with Felecia for many years, and she’s always thoughtful, curious and very strategic about the way she thinks through any issue,” Foster says. “She’s always been a strong supporter of our people-development initiatives and is always raising her hand to learn more.”
Foster says Hogan is always thinking about what else the bank could be doing to create programs that help people — especially women and people of color — find their next-level opportunity. “Through her lived experiences, Felecia can help people see past their unconscious biases and make an impact on the way we develop, promote and hire people. She’s just so perfect for this role.”
For her part, Hogan is excited about what’s ahead for Commerce’s DEI initiatives. “We have so many good things in the pipeline,” she says. “We’re very intentionally focused on how we operate internally and externally. We’re looking at how we can improve upon everything we do. I’m excited to continue the great work that’s already been started.”