How would you describe the culture at Citizens?
Citizens has a very entrepreneurial culture. Even though we’re a corporate bank and we've been around since the 1800s, we only broke away from our parent company in 2014. Since then, Citizens has been going through an incredible transformation, making acquisitions, modernizing our tech stack, and taking our business national. Many of our people join us because they really want to build something, they want to create things and they want to make an impact and they want to grow while doing it. That is the root of our entrepreneurial spirit.
The other component of our culture is driven from our Credo, it’s a strong current here. We have the three C’s, which are a focus on our Customers, our Colleagues, and our Community. We’re a very customer-centric company, we’re always trying to help our customers reach their full potential. Citizens has a very collegial environment. We are talent energizers, we are people that make those around us better. I really do feel that day-to-day, people here genuinely care about one another and are very supportive. We use agile as our modern way of working and that in and of itself drives collaboration and helps us get out of our comfort zones. Finally, community activism is a big part of our culture here. We’re always working to make the communities we work and live in better. That community oriented aspect was very appealing to me when I came here. The three C’s of our Credo really epitomize our culture and that’s why I stay here.
How has Citizens’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion impacted the organization overall?
Citizens is a company that understands inclusion is an essential element of everyone’s success. Our primary agenda here is to make sure everybody feels a sense of belonging, is seen, respected, heard and contributes at their full potential. We also understand that having diverse perspectives helps enable better decision making, risk management and unlocks greater innovation.
Recognizing that strong and informed leadership is the key to driving lasting change, we ensure a diverse slate of people are interviewed for senior level roles, ensuring diverse perspectives are retained to challenge decision making and propel Citizens forward. We understand that this commitment makes us stronger in every aspect, enabling us to do even more to address critical economic needs and build stronger communities.
Giving colleagues a voice and means to act is an essential in our journey. Our colleagues come from a variety of backgrounds, origins and cultures, with differing life experiences and abilities. To that end, our Business Resource Groups (BRGs) have become strong, respected champions and leaders for DE&I throughout the organization, serving as cultural ambassadors to help formulate and influence our DE&I strategy within the business and broader community.
Earlier this year, we announced the launch of Caring for Citizens, our seventh BRG dedicated to parents and caregivers. The mission of the new group is to support, share, and embrace family to strengthen the quality of our Citizens experience, across colleagues, customers and communities.
Through our community initiatives, BRGs and colleague programs, we demonstrate our commitment each day of helping those we serve be ready for the best possible tomorrow.
You’ve been at Citizens for twelve years in HR, how have you seen Citizens grow? What are some differences you see now from when you started?
When I started in 2011, Citizens was a part of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). We were the U.S franchise of a global banking subsidiary. Unfortunately, coming off the financial crisis in 2007, RBS was in a difficult position. In 2014, the UK government directed them to shrink their foreign assets, and Citizens spun off into an IPO. At the time, even though we had been in business for many years, we were basically a startup organization. We became a stand alone, U.S regional bank and we had to play some catchup in a hurry.
I have sensed a tremendous change in Citizens throughout this transformation. We’re taking our brand national, we’re investing heavily in our technology, we’re moving to the cloud, we're building our cybersecurity capabilities. We’re now a top performing U.S regional bank, our stock price has gone up tremendously since we went public. We are a stronger franchise than we’ve ever been. Our digital transformation in particular has been incredible. Working for a company that’s gone through a transformation like this feels pretty darn good, particularly if you come out the other end and actually make it. And Citizens has more than made it, we’ve been widely recognized for our success. I’ve been here the entire time and we’re totally a different firm.
You’re an HR leader and have worked in this space for your whole career, what is the most common mistake you see people make applying to jobs?
One big mistake I see people making is applying for jobs that they’re not qualified for. I encourage people to look closely at the job requirements and before you apply, ask yourself “do I meet 75% of the required qualifications?” If you do, then you should feel confident applying. If you don’t, you might want to take a step back and ask yourself “is that the job I should be applying for?” People become serial appliers, they just apply to anything, and sometimes it's too much of a reach. Don’t get me wrong, there should be some reach for a job. You don’t have to have 100% of the requirements when you apply for a job. If you do that, you’re going to have more success. People get frustrated when they don’t hear back, but I don’t think they’re always looking at the right jobs.
What do you wish every Citizens applicant knew?
I wish they knew that our Credo is as advertised. A lot of companies say things about their cultures and values, but it isn’t what you really feel and experience when you get there. At Citizens, it’s totally genuine. We are who we say we are, you can feel confident in that. If those things are appealing to you, the customer centricity, the collegial environment and the community activism, then apply.
I also always tell people that while the transformation we’ve gone through has given Citizens a really startup, techy feel, Citizens isn’t going anywhere. If you come up to New England, we’ve got a bank on every corner. It’s really the best of both worlds. We have the exciting startup energy, but we have a very stable platform and brand. Which is important. For people like me, I have kids and a family to take care of. I'd love to run off and work for a startup but a lot of us need more stability than that. We’ve built two new campuses, one in Rhode Island and one in Boston. The environment is very cool. We have great collaboration tools, sports fields, barbecue stations, patios, it doesn't feel like a traditional bank.
What are some of your proudest achievements at Citizens?
One of my proudest achievements here is helping to stand up our technology organization through this transformation. We started an initiative in 2019 called “Next Generation Technology” to hire the talent that we needed to modernize our technology stack and to move applications to the cloud. From 2019 until now, my team has hired close to a thousand software engineers. It’s been pretty amazing. We totally transformed the technology organization and delivered many of the talented engineers that are helping to drive our technology agenda.
In the past, I led the Talent Acquisition Strategy and Services group within the TA organization and I was key in being one of the first leaders to put in place our diversity hiring commitment. I’m incredibly proud of that. It’s been seven or eight years and it’s still going strong. It has absolutely driven more diversity across all business units of this organization, people really delivered on it. It’s a commitment and it’s taken seriously. I'm very proud of implementing some enterprise wide initiatives that have made a significant impact over the years.
What do you look for in potential employees? Who succeeds at Citizens?
I would say that we look for strong team players. We look for people that like to collaborate and who make the people around them better. We look for builders, people who like to create, transform, and drive things. We also look for people who are a bit scrappy. You will hear Citizens say that we believe we punch above our weight and to do so, we need people that do the same. We also look for integrity, that’s important to us. We expect integrity in our people and we always try to do the right thing.