It’s an increasing problem for banks — hiring smart, tech-savvy interns and teaching them workplace skills only to have them take those talents elsewhere soon after.

Fittingly, Royal Bank of Canada thinks it has found a high-tech solution. It uses software that schedules mentoring “coffee chats” for the thousands of students it hires every year, many of whom are interns. It claims that it is the first capital markets bank in New York City that provides mentoring and networking for all of its interns.

“If you look at the industry, most organizations identify high-performing talent and mentor that 1% of their population,” said Brien Convery, director of talent acquisition, early talent attraction and engagement at RBC. “That’s not what we’re doing. Every student who joins us gets matched up and they have networking opportunities across the bank to learn more about our culture and what we offer. Whether you’re here for four months or 10 weeks, you have the opportunity to make those connections.”

Brien Convery of RBC meeting with mentorees
Brien Convery, director of talent acquisition, early talent attraction and engagement at RBC, has coffee with mentees Lauren Piccoli and Griffith Diaz.

The software looks like a mashup of LinkedIn and a calendar scheduling tool. When a student joins the bank, they register and are immediately matched with someone a few years ahead of them. A coffee chat is scheduled for the two, based on a topic they’ve chosen through the system, such as a skill, career path, an interest or where they went to college. Then every two weeks another coffee chat is set up for the student with someone from a different business group. By the time they’ve done their internship, they’ve met with five to 10 professionals to help them learn about different opportunities at RBC.

“Some students have said they’re not networkers by skill, so for those people who may not know how to reach out, pick up the phone and ask someone to coffee, this provides that opportunity of connecting from the get-go before you go back to school for your final year,” Convery said.

He was inspired to do this by conversations he had with students in which they said the ability to be exposed to other segments of the business was lacking.

“They came in to do their role, had a great manager, had a great experience, but didn’t understand other aspects of the bank,” Convery said. “They didn’t even realize we were in different businesses.”

Convery wanted to provide an open environment where students can learn more about the bank, become more aware of its culture and find opportunities within RBC to work in areas like cybersecurity or artificial intelligence that they didn’t even know existed in banking, without having to go to Silicon Valley.

The software RBC is using is from a fintech called Ten Thousand Coffees.

“Mentoring and networking is one of the top three reasons millennials go to work,” said Dave Wilkin, the company’s founder. “But the reality is that usually less than 5% of employees get access to the mentoring programs because of the limited tools and the limited ability to scale it.”

Ten Thousand Coffees’ software uses artificial intelligence and algorithms to automatically drive mentoring and networking matches and schedule the biweekly coffee chats.

“That lets someone like Brien help thousands of students meet with thousands of hiring managers from all different businesses,” Wilkin said. That happens automatically with all the data visible to Brien and his teams so they can not only see who’s been matched, but the quality of those interactions.”

The system accepts feedback about each chat so the next match will be made more intelligently.

“It’s less about what did you think about this person, it’s more about how can we help you in your next career conversation?” Wilkin said. “So month over month we’re continuing to help people build diverse relationships and more innovative, productive employees.”

Students have said that, because of the platform and the structured program, they took another job or internship at the bank at another level.

“Now every single student, no matter what school they went to, what their background is, what kind of program they studied and whether they’re more extroverted or introverted, will get matched to a hiring manager who can help them with their career,” Wilkin said. “That changes the ability for all types of people to access opportunity, but also for all types of leaders to actually meet talent that they otherwise would have never been exposed to. Often it’s these types of connections that drive innovation and help people perform and stick around and do a better job.”

Editor at Large Penny Crosman welcomes feedback at penny.crosman@sourcemedia.com.