The financial services sector is feeling the love from one group — working mothers. Or at least the moms it employs.

Nineteen financial services firms were named to Working Mother's 100 Best Companies list for 2011, edging out healthcare (18 honorees) as the most well-represented business category. The pharmaceuticals sector came in a distant third with eight companies on the list. The Working Mother list was announced in September, and those that earned a spot were honored this week.

Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, American Express, First Horizon National and some others are such regulars on the list that they have been inducted into its hall of fame.

Executives for two of this year's honorees, Citi and First Horizon, said they were not surprised that financial services firms made up almost a fifth of the list. Ana Duarte McCarthy, Citi's chief diversity officer, said it is a byproduct of the competition among banks for the best talent.

John Daniel, the chief human resources officer at First Horizon, agreed, noting that applying to a few lists each year like ones for Working Mother and AARP was part of his bank's employee branding strategy. He also emphasized that women were an important demographic in the banking industry.

"If you are a star, we want you here," Daniel said. "You can't staff a bank without top-flight women anymore. We ask employees every year what they value, and work-life balance always scores high."

Citi views its employees as clients who need to be satisfied with the bank's services, Duarte McCarthy said. But employee programs can also benefit the company, she added. For example, Citi's backup child-care program helps parents line up child care in a pinch, allowing them to get to work that day.

"When, where and how people work has dramatically changed," she said. "Employees are looking for their employer to be a partner."

To make Working Mother's list, companies had to complete an application with more than 650 questions. Seven criteria were measured with particular weight given to benefits, flexibility and parental leave. For example, a company's resources, like Citi's child-care centers and backup child-care program, or its culture, like First Horizon allowing employees to telecommute, can boost scores.

"We manage the results and not the people," Daniel said. "Without the commute and getting ready for work, people can be a lot more productive than coming into the office. We support that."

The magazine did not publish the scores, but Bank of America was cited as among the list's "top 10."

Meanwhile, B of A also has made an employee benefits change that will surely make some happy. Starting in 2012, the company will reimburse its U.S. employees with same-sex partners for the extra taxes they pay for health insurance.

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