News Column

Financial Firm Comerica Scores Third Spot on Diversity Elite

Sept. 3, 2008

Derek Reveron for HispanicBusiness magazine

Financial Firm Comerica Scores Third Spot on Diversity Elite

Three years ago Comerica Inc., a financial services and banking group now headquartered in Dallas, established three regional Hispanic market segmentation teams in California, Texas, and Michigan. Each team included Hispanic and non-Hispanic members from different departments and divisions.

The move, which has helped the company make great inroads into the burgeoning Hispanic market, was just one of many that helped Comerica jump from sixth place in last year's Hispanic Business Diversity Elite to the third spot in the 2008 listings.

Comerica, which moved headquarters from Detroit to Dallas in 2007, sees diversity as an indispensable business strategy that must yield practical and measurable results for the bank and its Hispanic customers.

"Within the teams, there is extensive discussion and research about what Hispanics need," said Monica Martinez, vice-president of Hispanic business affairs, who oversees the project. "Having diverse employees helps us have a good understanding of the nature of the Hispanic market and capture insight that others can't."

Recently, Comerica joined the ranks of financial institutions that accept "matricula consular" (Mexican consulate-issued) cards as identification from Mexican citizens wanting to open bank accounts.

Keeping a Diversity Scorecard

Linda Forte, senior vice-president of business affairs, says diversity is front and center at Comerica and tied into expectations of employee values and performance. She also says the bottom line is a crucial piece of that equation.

Comerica tracks diversity progress on all fronts with a special scorecard that measures the impact of its initiatives on revenue, employment, and suppliers. The card also notes the diversity program's influence on corporate decision making and problem solving.

"We are very pleased with the results," says Ms. Forte, who predicts they will go on improving. And although the company declined to disclose most of its diversity scores, it was happy to share two other figures.

First, the bank met its 2007 goal of spending about $50 million with minority- and women-owned companies. Secondly, Hispanics currently account for 8.3 percent of the company's more than 11,000 employees.

Company chairman and CEO Ralph Babb Jr. believes diversity is critical to career success. On Comerica's Web site he says: "We all know that when we truly reflect the demographics of our markets, we will better serve our customers, grow our business, and build an even stronger organization. It makes good business sense."

Next Step, the Boardroom

Diversity efforts have lagged in one area: Comerica has no Hispanic board members. Last year, the bank started interviewing Hispanic board candidates, says Jane Garcia, co-founder of Corporate Responsibility through Advocacy (True Ownership), a group that attends corporate annual meetings to encourage diversity.

Comerica declined to confirm this and instead provided this statement: "Comerica has expressed serious interest in adding a Hispanic man or woman to its board of directors. A diverse board is part of Comerica's overall commitment to diversity."


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Source: HispanicBusiness.com (c) 2008. All rights reserved.


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