By: Nicole Dolan
July 14, 2022
Although accountability can be a tricky aspect of implementing a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, Lead Bank in Kansas City seems to have that piece figured out.
Lead Bank is majority owned by a woman and has a majority-diverse board, which has led the bank to embed its DEI standards within its business, including the bank's IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity and access) plan that is held accountable by its compliance and legal department.
Angela Blackburn, senior vice president and director of people, said Lead Bank shows its commitment to the metro area by reflecting Kansas City in the leadership, employees and financial incentives it offers clients who have DEI plans or work in underrepresented communities themselves.
"We want to provide opportunities not only from an education perspective, but to also encourage our staff to participate in underrepresented communities," Blackburn said.
Blackburn said she's seen a lot of DEI initiatives driven by a company's human resources department or executed only by the CEO or top leadership. The companywide IDEA plan requires every employee to contribute to Lead Bank's strategic plan because it's part of staffers' performance review, goal setting process and even compensation.
If employees do not meet their IDEA goal, their bonus or merit increase won't be as healthy. Lead Bank has seen buy-in throughout all departments.
By making strides to ensure that every employee is represented, Blackburn said she also has seen a direct effect in recruitment and retention, as well as new clients. The IDEA plan is led by 25-30 volunteer employees who hold the company accountable and leave it up to their peers for exactly how they want to invest in their respective communities.
"There's a bank on every corner, and people are becoming more intentional and aware about where they are putting or spending their money and what type of businesses they're doing that with," Blackburn said. "By being a woman-owned business, it makes us an outlier to so many banking and financial institutions because we're not the norm, but our mission statement, values and initiatives makes us worth investing in."
The bank's loan application process now inquires whether businesses have an internal DEI plan. If applicable, Lead Bank gives the business a break, which can be a point discount or a dollar amount. Blackburn said it's a good way for staff to think outside the box when it comes to DEI.
"There's a financial benefit for clients to invest in the DEI space on top of it being the right thing to do," she said. "If we were missing out on an underrepresented group, then we could be missing out on a whole space and form of thought. There's also a real benefit from not leaving out any particular group in order to truly represent Kansas City."