Employer Branding in the Banking Industry

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

Wikipedia supplies this definition: “Employer brand describes an employer’s reputation as a place to work, and their employee value proposition, as opposed to the more general corporate brand reputation and value proposition to customers”.

It’s a problem for banks – they have an image problem, customers dislike and distrust the banks especially since the financial crisis, and they are finding it hard to recover consumer trust. Given that digitalization is forcing the sector to re-evaluate their role and how they portray and sell themselves, brand image is a difficult topic for the banks.

For some graduates, banking is not the hot ticket that it used to be, despite higher than average starting salaries in the sector. Accenture found that perceptions about organizational culture play a role here:

  • The majority of new grads (52 percent) would be willing to trade a measure of personal compensation to work at a company with an impressive commitment to the environment or the social impact of its products and services
  • Fifty-nine percent of 2015 graduates say they would prefer to work at a company with a positive social atmosphere and receive a lower salary, rather than receive higher pay at a company that is less fun.

Evidence also suggests that millennials entering today’s workplaces want to work for diverse firms with a mix of ethnicities, social backgrounds, gender, and sexuality. This could be a problem for many of the large banks, where diversity in recruitment remains a challenge; and the same applies in respect of another work value expressed by new graduates – work-life balance.

Collaboration counts

We talked to Aaron Kraljev, VP Employer Brand & Candidate Advocacy at Wells Fargo, founded in 1852 to run stagecoach lines. Aaron has been with the bank for 10 years and has seen a lot of changes in his time there in terms of how they message potential candidates. They are very committed to being flexible and evolving with the landscape, it’s a difficult jobs market at the moment so he says it is important to design meaningful content for target talent.

Wells Fargo believes in the power of working together because great ideas can come from anyone. Collaboration enables all team members to have an impact and make a difference for the entire company. So they aim to provide a supportive environment where talent can learn and grow.

All team members have the opportunity to participate in Team Member Networks at Wells Fargo. Team members are connected by a shared background, experience, or other affinity and each TMN is aligned with the company strategy and devoted to professional growth and education; community outreach; recruiting and retention; supporting business development; and customer insight.

Keep it simple

We had an interesting chat with Ted Meulenkamp of Banco Santander, Director of Global Employer Branding & Talent Acquisition, where they have implemented EVP across many countries focusing on understanding the challenges and opportunities of the digital world. At Santander Bank, their mission is to help people prosper – customers, employees, and future employees.

Ted sought real insights into their value proposition and what is important to employees at the sharp end so they could build a solid global Employee Value Proposition through data analysis, focus groups, surveys, and executive interviews. EVP has to be authentic, tested and then localized because the story is slightly different in different areas. EVP is about lived experience not just a message printed on a poster. #TheSantanderEffect is interpreted locally to embed strategy with a focus on the proof points instead of empty slogans.

His advice is: keep it simple, don’t try to tick all the boxes but to focus on the really important arguments that will resonate with staff.

Community service is important at Santander where they empower colleagues to “walk the walk” through many corporate programs that encourage community service, charitable giving, and volunteering.

Engaged and empathetic employees

We also interviewed Debbie Celado, the Vice President, Employer Brand Marketing at Citizens Bank, a nearly 200-year old bank that’s gone through some serious transition of late to learn how important having a clear employer brand has been to the journey. The careers page of their website is headlined: ‘Be a great Citizen’, and the page showing the awards the bank has won in recent years is pretty impressive. Citizens’ brand messaging is around how an engaged, empathetic workforce plays a starring role in the consumer, employer and employee channels.

For Debbie looking forward and a commitment to continuous improvement is key to the way they work at Citizens, they are also very well known for their work in the community and giving back. Collaboration across business lines is also something that stands out for her, they want their people to be able to make a difference and put their ideas into action.

Citizens built their success on the simple idea that the best bank is the one that helps people bank better. Because those who work there also raise families, pay mortgages, and save for school they know what challenges customers face, and how to help. The personal touch, collaboration, and community service are key commitments.

In essence robust employer branding in banking depends on a brand promise that resonates with the target audience.

See also: Innovation & Technology at the Top 10 US Banks


Our newsletter is exclusively curated by our CEO, Jörgen Sundberg, for leaders who make decisions about talent. Subscribe for updates on The Employer Branding Podcast, new articles, eBooks, research and events we’re working on.


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