Need a volunteer opportunity, young banker? This algorithm's for you
So much of fintech is built to serve young consumers. Rhoden Monrose built a platform to serve young bankers and other professionals.
Millennial employees who grew up during the financial crisis seek to blend their work with a sense of community purpose, Monrose said. Large banks that want to attract and retain such employees need to enable that volunteerism.
Monrose, 32, offers up his own experience: He spent five years at Citigroup but left in 2014 to create a machine learning platform called CariClub to connect young banking professionals with nonprofits seeking to recruit junior directors.
“It was not a rejection of being a banker, but I felt like I could be more useful to society in other ways outside of Microsoft, PowerPoint and Excel,” Monrose said.
CariClub is assisting young bankers at the largest financial companies, including UBS, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Berkshire Global Partners and PJT Partners. It currently has 25 companies, from a variety of industries, in its program.
The company’s platform is currently available in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Before going nationwide, it wants to create online training sessions that will allow nonprofits to become “experts overnight” in developing and running an associate board, Monrose said. It also plans to offer tools that would allow these boards of junior directors to pick among prepared schedules of yearly goals.
Participants fill out profile pages and the company’s machine learning offers nonprofits that match the participant’s skills and interests. In the future, CariClub wants to develop online training to teach best practices for running nonprofit associate boards.
CariClub will work with any company, but banks have been among the most receptive clients, Monrose said. Most nonprofits are looking for individuals with financial experience while banks are hoping to develop young employees’ communication and management skills.
Nonprofit boards have been a longtime strategy in financial services to develop leaders, said Timothy Reimink, a managing director in the financial services sector at Crowe.
“You're not employed there to accomplish tasks associated with day-to-day activities, so your role is to provide perspective, think about strategy, and think about fundraising and how you can afford resources,” Reimink said. “It's a way for a middle-management person to see what it looks like to guide an organization as a whole.”
Banks have been using volunteerism for several years as a way to attract and retain millennial employees, said Bill Fisse, managing director of Citi's talent, diversity and inclusion initiatives.
More than 70% of nonprofit board members are baby boomers who will be retiring soon, which is why they have created associate boards to groom future leaders, Monrose said.
This is how Jason Rosen, business strategy and solutions manager at Citibank, came to the associate board of Scope, a nonprofit that raises scholarships for underprivileged children to go to camp in the summers.
After filling out a profile about his background — where he mentioned his Jewish youth group, an outreach experience for a Boys and Girls Club in Chicago and the sleep-away camps he loved as a child — CariClub determined that child services would be a good fit for him.
“CariClub made the connection, then I sat down with the executive director to talk about the organization, and they invited me to sit in on an associate board meeting,” he said. “I think CariClub nailed it.”
Last year, the bank bought 80 licenses from CariClub and placed 55 employees on associate boards. This year it plans to buy 60 more, with the hope of getting 150 employees total on associate boards. (If the bank gets 60 employees on associate boards, CariClub will award them 60 licenses for free.)
Citi offers the programs to employees who are three to seven years into their careers. Monrose has found that the average age of participants on the platform is 25 to 35. In initial surveys, Citi found that 600 employees expressed interest in the program.
“It allows banks to have a bottom-up approach towards inculcating a culture of giving back at the company,” Monrose said.
Through a partnership with Service Year Alliance, Citi also offers first-year Citi analysts in Manhattan the opportunity to defer one year of employment to work at a nonprofit of their choice.
“From our point of view, it’s an opportunity for millennials to say Citi is a place where I want to develop my career,” Fisse said.
CariClub also connected Austin Smith, an investment banking analyst at Berkshire Global Advisors, to the Council for Economic Education, a nonprofit that teaches students about economics and finance.
“Economics taught me how to think rationally about every decision I make, and to be able to understand why society behaves the way it does,” Smith said. “Since joining the CEE more than a year ago, I have led fundraising efforts, volunteered at CEE hosted events and attended associate board and board meetings.”
There has often been a knowledge mismatch between nonprofits and banks, said Brian Clarke, senior business strategy manager of regional and community outreach at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
“We’ve worked with community organizations to teach them how to have a better thought out idea for partnership,” Clarke said. “Banks want to perform services as part of Community Reinvestment Act compliance, but nonprofits can't just walk in and ask for money.”
Part of the Boston Fed’s recommendations included finding ways for bank employees to serve on their boards.
“For banks it’s important to have visibility,” Clarke said. “If a bank makes a grant, they want people in the community to know that they’re supporting them.”