Focus on your people first and revenue and profits will follow, George A. Ramirez says.
"A highly talented and especially a diverse work force will make a huge difference in terms of how you serve your customers and the empathy with which you handle their issues," says Ramirez, who was recently named chief diversity executive at Union Bank.
"People make all of the difference in the world," he said.
The San Francisco bank, which is a subsidiary of The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, added the chief diversity officer position as it strives to become a top 10 financial institution in the U.S., Ramirez says. Developing senior leadership and recruiting a diverse work force in terms of gender, race and experience "will take the bank to the next level," he adds.
The bank had $92.3 billion of assets as of March 31. It ranked No. 20 in the U.S. at yearend, according to SNL Financial.
Currently more than 40% of the bank's senior leaders are female or people of color and more than 45% of the bank's work force is of baby boomer age or older, according to Union Bank. Union Bank had roughly 10,200 employees at March 31.
In his new role Ramirez will focus on recruiting a diverse array of people to serve in the top 400 to 500 senior management roles as positions open up. This may mean finding new talent from outside the company and spending months developing a "trusting and respectful relationship" to get candidates to work for Union Bank, Ramirez says.
"If you have a prospect worth pursuing, they probably won't come to work for you next week," he adds.
This could also mean ensuring that current employees get the challenging experiences they need to develop their skills to climb the corporate ladder. Ramirez, who joined Union Bank in 1986, has benefited from this type of experience. He recently led the integration of Tamalpais Bank and Frontier Bank into Union Bank after spending much of his career focused on retail banking.
This assignment gave him "insight and understanding into how the company works" on a broader scale, he says. It also gave him experience in a human-resource role to round out his skills.
"When you think about all of the requirements and challenges facing banks, what is a better way to overcome those than to have a diverse senior management group?" Ramirez says.