Commerce Bank’s inclusion and diversity efforts are rooted in our core values.
Throughout our history, Commerce has worked to build relationships based on trust. The values we hold as a company affect everything we do, every single day. We act with integrity. We hold ourselves accountable for doing the right thing, take action where we can, and strive to be an example of what to do. Our purpose is to help others focus on what matters most—not just for our customers, but our team members as well.
Today, those same values form the basis of the bank’s continued commitment to inclusion and diversity, a topic that has been brought to the forefront across the country due to the events of recent weeks. Commerce is dedicated to advancing inclusion and diversity in the workplace and has worked thoughtfully over the years to establish a variety of programs and initiatives designed to embrace an inclusive and diverse culture, raise awareness of issues like unconscious bias, and establish clear goals that establish accountability. We believe our differences make the difference in how we better serve the needs of our customers, team members and communities.
At Commerce, we are firmly committed to engaging in the conversations necessary to make our team members feel safe, valued and respected, standing up for the fundamental human rights that some might take for granted, and truly listening so we can better understand how to serve our communities.
Felecia Hogan, senior vice president and director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at Commerce, notes that one of the goals of these efforts is to encourage everyone to champion inclusion and diversity. “At the end of the day, we all bring unique perspectives to opportunities, and when we leverage the different voices we have, we can create a better outcome,” she said. “Committing to a diversity of thought and diversity of experience makes us better today and in the future.”
That level of commitment starts at the top. In 2020, Commerce Bank CEO John Kemper signed the CEO pledge for the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion. The pledge commits Commerce to a set of actions to welcome diverse perspectives and experiences, and to make an impact within its communities and society at large. The end goal of these actions is to foster an atmosphere in which Commerce’s team members are comfortable having conversations about important issues, namely diversity.
One way in which Commerce is actively encouraging these kinds of conversations is through its Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs. These groups were established to help team members from diverse backgrounds feel welcome, make personal connections and further their careers. Commerce currently has four ERGs: VIBE, for multicultural team members; PRIDE, for LGBTQIA+ team members; RISE, for women; and EMERGE, for young professionals. Each of these groups is open to all Commerce team members, and allies are encouraged to participate.
“When I see the different ERGs that we have, it shows me that Commerce is trying to create spaces for our team members to feel a sense of value and belonging,” said Hogan. “It helps people plug in and hit the ground running when they join us. The ERGs let people know that we see you, and we want you to benefit from being connected to our organization.”
An additional benefit of the ERGs is that they can serve as a conduit for conversations that are important to have, but at times can be difficult. For example, VIBE hosted a series of “Listen. Talk. Learn.” sessions led by the Diversity Awareness Partnership. These sessions encourage team members to engage in open and honest dialogue, share stories, learn from each other and create opportunities for reflection afterwards.
“I’m hopeful that people will listen and lean into discomfort to really hear the other side of the coin,” Hogan says.
“If we want to truly change the world, we have to apply an empathetic lens and start with ourselves. We must ask ourselves the tough question of what we are individually doing to condemn racism, discrimination, hate, insensitive behavior and violence of any kind. Now is the time to show respect, be nicer, listen with empathy and seek different perspectives with positive intent."
Commerce’s commitment to an inclusive organization extends to other programs as well. In addition to the ERGs, the bank has an Executive Management Committee mentorship program to support the professional development of the organization’s diverse leaders. Commerce also provides unconscious bias and sensitivity training, which team members across the organization have completed.
The bank understands the need to actively recruit the next generation of diverse team members. Commerce engages with students at local colleges and universities, and we partner with many on campus affinity groups to raise awareness of careers in banking and encourage students to consider positions within the bank. The company also partners with organizations such as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis and Kansas City, Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis and Greater Kansas City, the Urban Financial Services Coalition and the National Black MBA Association to find and retain diverse talent.
There’s much more to come, and Commerce is fully committed to ensuring that team members feel a sense of belonging and see people like themselves at every level of the company.
“We need those diverse perspectives,” Hogan says. “That’s what will make us even stronger in the long run.”
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