PNC: Actively Support and Advocate for Business Women

Oct 31, 2017 10:45 AM ET
Campaign: PNC: Gender Equity
PNC Underwriting Manager Allison Jewell and Relationship Manager Daniela Piemonte attended Mentoring Monday, a Business Journal’s Bizwomen event sponsored by PNC.

Number of employees: 53,000

Headquarters: Pittsburgh, Pa.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc. is one of the largest diversified financial services institutions in the United States, organized around its customers and communities for strong relationships and local delivery of retail and business banking. It offers a full range of lending products and specialized services for corporations and government entities including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending, and wealth and asset management.

PNC doesn’t consider women’s business development as just the right thing to do—it’s a focused business strategy that was formalized in 2006. Today, PNC has a network of more than 1,700 bankers and advisors who self-identify as PNC-Certified Women Business Advocates (WBAs). To become certified, participants follow a training curriculum, successfully complete a knowledge assessment, and apply for the designation by developing a personal business plan as an advocate. About 30% of these advocates are men. As evidenced by the growth rate of more than 300 new members each year, bankers are increasingly recognizing the need and benefit of serving as advocates for businesswomen in their markets. As many as 10 years ago, many financial institutions established benchmarks as a way to encourage lending to women business owners. Today, however, PNC’s WBAs are actively seeking business relationships with female financial decision makers that lead to credit transactions. As a result, PNC has helped to eliminate the perception that banks don’t lend to women.

The annual growth in the number of WBAs indicates that this focus provides a competitive advantage over other banks. The company also recognizes that diversity has an impact on its financial performance and its level of innovation.

In addition, PNC supports numerous employee business resource groups. One such group, Women Connect, has 18 chapters in offices throughout the United States, as well as a new virtual chapter. Employees are active contributors in the community, so many customers are aware of the company’s diversity focus. Being able to tell its story is important, especially when PNC is competing with other financial institutions for business with municipal, government, or not-for-profit organizations.

Support for gender diversity starts at the top. PNC’s Corporate Diversity Council is composed of senior executives across the full range of business lines who determine methods and strategies for attracting and developing a talented and diverse workforce. It is chaired by PNC Chairman, President, and CEO William S. Demchak and co-chaired by PNC’s Chief Diversity Officer Marsha Jones.

A commitment to gender diversity is also generating material results internally. PNC has reported year-over-year gains in hiring and retaining women. More than 30% of the company’s executive level positions (board of directors and executive committee) are female. PNC’s workforce has always been gender diverse; and while it doesn’t struggle to attract women, strategies are needed to move more women into upper level positions. PNC acknowledges that it is not yet where it wants to be, but it can see progress.

It is rare in the commercial real estate industry to have a woman as head of commercial bank lending, a business leadership role that Diana Reid, executive vice president and head of PNC Real Estate, has held since 2007. Reid has made a difference in the commercial real estate industry in many ways, including serving in leadership roles in industry associations. She encourages the men and women on her team to become active in their communities and to join professional organizations, including CREW Network and the Urban Land Institute.

PNC has received many awards, such as Best Places to Work (for the past 15 years) from Working Mother Magazine, and it maintains a presence on the list of top companies for executive women published annually by National Association of Female Executives, a trade group.

“We absolutely believe that our ability to attract a diverse workforce is correlated to our ability to win the business of diverse customer segments and ultimately achieve and sustain growth,” said Beth Marcello, PNC’s director of Women’s Business Development.

Marcello recently reflected on where PNC was 11 years ago when she was hired. “Sometimes it feels like we have a long way to go, but when I look back, I realize how much we have accomplished,” she said.

Even so, Marcello constantly advocates for her team’s work and is held accountable for its progress and impact on the business. As for her recommendations to other companies seeking to improve their gender balance, she emphasizes the importance of being persistent and making a strong commitment.

The following is an excerpt from a Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network whitepaper titled, “Diversity: The Business Advantage,” which explores best practices in gender equity and inclusion in commercial real estate. The full whitepaper is available here.