Regular readers of this column will notice it's been a while since I've actually written something about banking. Let's see... in August, in light of this summer's Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, I noted the high bar Wall Street has set on hiring policies and discrimination protections for gay employees. In September, as the Summers-Yellen debate reached a fever pitch, I weighed in on gender politics and promotions. And for our October special on the Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance, I wrote about the challenges of managing a family when you're also trying to manage a career, especially if your partner is doing the same.

I was starting to feel a little sheepish about all this—surely there's a great column in me somewhere about whether JPMorgan Chase really deserves all the legal punches and regulatory scrutiny it's been getting of late, or whether it matters that deposits are finally starting to flow out of the banking system. But I realize now that my last three columns were all leading to the very same, important spot: the workplace. Who we hire, on what basis we promote them, whether we make the accommodations needed to retain them—all of these things can make or break a workplace environment. And that's a perfect point to drive home this month, as we unveil the inaugural list of American Banker's Best Banks to Work For.

Earlier this year, we invited banks to participate in a study conducted for us by the Best Companies Group, which yielded the ranking we feature in our cover story. (For more on the methodology, see p. 16.) Not everyone involved the study made the cut; banks that failed to meet Best Companies' criteria for being a "best place to work" were kept off the list. The rest were ranked against their peers in one of three categories based on asset size.

These banks, profiled by our terrific contributor Joel Berg, offer up some great ideas for keeping employees engaged, be it through generous incentives, great communications, group volunteer projects or the good, clean fun of a company event that staff actually looks forward to. We hope you take away some good ideas from this piece, or at least feel inspired to know that with the right ingredients, it's possible to develop strong, positive engagement at the office.

Speaking of the office—or rather, "The Office"—I can't wait to stop by the Museum of American Finance in lower Manhattan for a new exhibit called "The Fed at 100." Our reporter Sarah Todd was there at the opening, where she learned about several Fed traditions, including some that could have been great fodder for a workplace comedy series. Her article is here.

A brief update: in our September Briefings section, we reported on the progress of Bank On, a city-by-city movement to increase access to mainstream household financial services. (It started as a private-public partnership in San Francisco and has since been replicated elsewhere, with banks playing a key role in the programs.)

This fall, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, working with the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, announced a $1.15 million grant to seed Bank On 2.0. Building on the original Bank On vision, it is meant to "help cities design financial empowerment strategies and embed them into local government programs to improve the financial capability of low- and moderate-income households."

 

Heather Landy,

Editor in Chief

heather.landy@sourcemedia.com

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