Five Questions With: Teshia Levy-Grant

Teshia Levy-Grant was recently named senior vice president and diversity and inclusion officer for Webster Bank.

Levy-Grant previously served for four years as dean of equity and inclusion for Wesleyan University, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree. She has a master’s degree in counseling from Central State Connecticut University.

PBN: What exactly does your role as diversity officer for Webster Bank encompass?

LEVY-GRANT: As Webster’s diversity and inclusion officer, I’m excited to promote a diverse workforce and foster an open and inclusive work environment. I lead Webster’s Diversity & Inclusion Council, which is the platform where our senior leaders and representatives of our various employee resource groups shape the strategy and actions of our diversity and inclusion focus. The council is co-chaired by our CEO and the EVP [executive vice president] of business banking, sending a clear signal that D&I is a priority for Webster. I’m also responsible for expanding Webster’s diversity programs and partnerships within our local communities, as well as with colleges and universities.

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PBN: What are your goals in your new role for the next year?

LEVY-GRANT: I look forward to broadening the reach of our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and ensuring that they are further integrated into all aspects of the business. We’ll do this through several avenues, including further developing a framework for D&I initiatives across all lines of business and functional units, and using data to identify areas for continuing strategic and organizational improvement. We continue to measure the impact of our initiatives and how people feel about working at Webster. Our current “diversity index,” as indicated by our recently administered employee engagement survey, is above the norm for similar companies in our industry – of course, we’re always looking for ways to improve.

We will also continue to promote and expand D&I education. Education is absolutely a business imperative; D&I training is required for every Webster employee, from our senior executives to our front-line bankers. Webster has committed time and resources to develop in-house training programs, and we are working to expand them further.

PBN: Is lack of diversity in the banking industry a problem?

LEVY-GRANT: Banks, like companies in every industry, are looking to see what we’ve learned, and how we can do better. It’s important to address the educational pipeline, as well as early-career and entry-level positions. Webster has a successful college internship program – this year, it’s 100% virtual – and a multiyear rotational program for recent college graduates, both of which have been a great resource for identifying and nurturing young talent.

We’re also working to build and deepen our external networks to support our goal of recruiting from a more diverse talent pool. In 2019, all of Webster’s talent acquisition partners were certified as diversity and inclusion recruiters through the AIRS certification program, and for openings at or above the VP level, we review and track our interview slates to determine how often we are seeing a diverse selection of candidates. These efforts enable Webster to better align our recruitment practices and sourcing strategies to attract top diverse talent.

We’re proud to have a diverse board of directors – 50% of our directors are women – and we know that there is great opportunity to move forward at the leadership level.

PBN: The killing of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests have brought new attention to racial disparities and discrimination. How has or will this affect efforts to increase diversity in banking?

LEVY-GRANT: I think this movement is causing many industries, including banking, to look more deeply at their roles and how they can make changes that will lead to greater diversity.

As a values-based and community-minded bank, Webster is dedicated to respecting the dignity of every individual. We recognize that each individual has different experiences and unique perspectives, all of which make us a better company. We continue efforts to ensure a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace for all our bankers, and will continue to assess how we may continue to improve that work.

PBN: Why is it important for banks, or companies generally, to hire people focused specifically on diversity and inclusion?

LEVY-GRANT: There is a clear business case to be made for D&I: it helps to attract and retain top talent, it fosters a collaborative work environment and it encourages innovation. At Webster, our D&I focus is a natural outgrowth of our Webster Way values: acting with responsibility, respect, ethical behavior, citizenship and teamwork. We believe that having a workforce with diverse backgrounds and experiences reflects our customers and the communities we serve, and better helps them achieve their financial goals.

Nancy Lavin is a staff writer for PBN. Contact her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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