Neeha Khurana is international head of talent (staffing learning, leadership development, and diversity and inclusion for EMEA and Asia Pacific) at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Please tell us about Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) is the corporate and investment banking division of Bank of America. The company has a long-established operation in Europe, and the Middle East & Africa (EMEA). We have offices in over 30 cities across the region and we are committed to making financial lives better by connecting resources and expertise across the entire company and delivering our capabilities together as one team.
At BofAML, we realise the power of our people and value our differences, recognising that our diversity makes us a stronger company and allows us to better serve our stakeholders. We also want to be a great place for people to work and are committed to creating an environment where all employees have the opportunity to excel and achieve their goals.
What tasks does your role involve?
An important aspect of my role at BofAML is exploring how we attract, develop and retain the best talent – this is integral to our company’s [success] and therefore our clients’ success. Part of this is ensuring we have a diverse pool of candidates and employees that reflect our range of stakeholders.
As well as recruitment, diversity and inclusion, my team is responsible for talent planning and succession management practices, employee engagement and culture-change initiatives, executive development, and firm-wide learning and development.
How many apprentices and graduates do you recruit each year?
Our internship and graduate programmes are extremely popular and every year, we see high levels of competition. We also offer summer internships and shorter insight opportunities for students.
The number of graduate positions differs from year to year, depending on business needs and priorities. Our graduate roles are tailored to each business and offer fantastic scope for learning and development.
We recruit a diverse range of talent, and invite applications from different backgrounds and qualifications. For example, it is not just mathematics or IT skills we seek; we also proactively target applicants with arts and humanities backgrounds to fill a variety of roles across our company.
How are you tapping into talent, while ensuring you're reaching out to all relevant genders, nationalities and age groups?
We work very closely with our recruitment agencies and internal stakeholders to ensure they understand our commitment to diversity and interest in a rich, diverse pool of candidates from the humanities and languages through to mathematics and technology areas.
Our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture starts at the top with our Global Diversity & Inclusion Council which is chaired by our chairman and CEO.
We also work with universities and business schools to raise awareness of the range of careers available at our company, and hold various workshops to help ignite interest and challenge some of the stereotypical preconceptions that some students may have about our industry. These sessions also give us a chance to encourage students to apply for summer internships and graduate positions for first-hand experience of what it’s like to work at BofAML.
In a similar vein, we partner with a number of schools in Tower Hamlets to help young people improve their skills, knowledge and career aspirations. Additionally, we work with like-minded organisations including Teach First, City Year, the Education and Employers Taskforce and City Talent Initiative to educate and inform thousands of students across the country.
Whats your sorting process to select the best candidates for a shortlist?
At BofAML we constantly re-assess our recruitment strategies and strive to develop a well-rounded shortlist by:
- Actively working within our staffing teams and recruitment firms to ensure we assess against the competencies that are critical to success at our company, as well as ensuring our diversity priorities are understood.
- Putting all leaders through unconscious bias training and articulating how it can affect recruitment decisions is key. There are so many factors that can influence perceptions – it takes training to raise awareness of these factors as well as an in-depth understanding of the business and what it takes to be successful at our organisation to ensure we recruit great candidates for the roles in question.
- Understanding that training does not remain in the classroom.
How are you ensuring potential recruits know about BofAML and its values?
Through targeted media and marketing campaigns, and a bespoke careers website, we encourage current and potential employees to interact and connect with the company, understand our values and engage in our wide range of programmes and job opportunities.
We also work with internal and external stakeholders and key partners to spread our message and educate people about the broad range of opportunities we offer.
As previously mentioned, our campus recruitment team visits business schools and universities around the world to secure talent for our internship and graduate programmes.
As well as this, our ‘Returning talent’ programme is an example of the company’s efforts to achieve a more diverse workforce. This programme is targeted at men and women who have taken a career break to care for relatives. Now in its fifth year, it aims to support participants’ return to work by encouraging confidence and providing practical skills.
How do you make BofAML stand out to applicants, against competing businesses?
We are committed to a culture of learning and development by actively supporting and promoting career progression, encouraging all employees to express their points of view by communicating openly and respectfully, and in an environment where we all act with integrity.
With the recruitment landscape constantly evolving and knowing that many Millennials have different expectations to other generations, I see my role as critical to ensuring we have both the knowledge, the expertise and the diverse range of talent that allows us to continually innovate in today’s fast-changing world.
What is the biggest challenge youve faced in your role and how did you overcome it?
The main challenge is the breadth of my role and executing everything our business needs in today’s constantly changing environment. I face this challenges by having constant dialogue and partnership with our business stakeholders, and by focusing on the priorities that are critical to our business right now.
What's the best aspect of your role?
I have had the opportunity to play an important part in supporting leaders in their personal and professional development, as well helping them build high-performing, diverse teams and businesses. Watching these leaders grow, supporting employees as they reach their full potential and playing a critical role in building a great place to work is a very rewarding experience.
What advice do you have for other in-house recruiters?
The best piece of advice I can give to organisations looking to attract young talent would be to make sure they constantly communicate with their key audiences, not only on what their organisation does, but what it stands for – its culture and values.