In recognition of National Mentoring Day, we sat down with René Kim, managing director of Digital Banking Solutions, to get a mentor’s perspective on Schwab’s new structured and formal D&I Mentoring Program for colleagues of color. The program pairs employees of color with executive management and senior leaders like René, focusing on leadership development to prepare them for career growth opportunities, broaden their professional network, and develop meaningful, supportive relationships with senior leaders. René was paired with John Dang, an Asian American leadership mentee and a director in Schwab’s First Line Risk Management Office. Here’s what René had to say about the program, which is one of the Board-approved diversity & inclusion efforts announced by the Schwab Executive Council last year.
Why do you think the mentorship program is important?
What I really appreciate about this mentorship program is its focus on diversity, and the opportunity for two-way mentoring. As we continue to focus on increasing the awareness and value of diversity across the firm, this is one of several ways we support growth in this space. These relationships allow us to learn directly from mentees about their unique lived experiences and how those have impacted their careers at Schwab. With that knowledge, we can seek change in our processes and behaviors to remove any unintended obstacles or barriers. In the process, we are supporting the individual but also evolving as an organization to increase opportunities and belonging.
You’ve been paired with John Dang. What about your pairing makes you two a good fit?
At our first meeting, John was forthcoming about wanting to talk about the implications of being an Asian American in the company. As the parent of two half-Korean sons, I can relate to some of John’s experiences. I admired his courage to share all that during our first conversation, and he was clear about what he’d like to accomplish in his career. It’s a pleasure to get to know him and to support him on his journey.
What inspired you to sign up as a mentor?
Honestly, I sign up for every mentorship program I can because I think mentorship is really important. I still have a relationship with one of my mentors from 20 years ago! As leaders, we have the privilege of position to advocate for employees and help them navigate their careers. Plus, it makes me feel great when I can help someone make a difference in the work they’re doing or on their road to advancement.
Also, I would like to help make the company and the world a little better, where we treat each other with more respect and with open hearts. This is what inspires my work with the mentorship program, with the Asian Professionals Inclusion Network at Schwab (APINS) and Women’s Interactive Network at Schwab (WINS).
What’s the advantage of participating in a formal mentorship program versus taking a more organic approach to establishing mentor-mentee relationships?
Some of the organic mentorships start strong because there’s a connection that brings two people together – you have a head start in your relationship. Whereas with a formalized mentorship program, participants may not know each other, there are other advantages. While it may take a little longer to develop trust between the parties, the structure the program provides keeps us focused on outcomes. We’ve made a six-month commitment to our mentorship relationship, and we meet every month for discussion and guidance and to tackle specific issues.
The assignment process is another advantage of the formal program. You get to know someone you maybe wouldn’t have otherwise met and, in this case, someone with a completely different set of experiences than my own. I get to learn about John as well as from him, and that helps increase my awareness of what it’s like to be a person of color working in this industry, and ultimately that helps shape how I show up as a leader.
The mentorship program is an important Schwab initiative. How do you think it supports our Through Clients’ Eyes strategy?
It’s important that our employees mirror what our clients experience, so they can deliver service with empathy and understanding. As a company, we care a lot about who we are and what we do. And in that, we want to do everything we can to improve diversity. Stronger balance makes us a better company.
About the author:
René Kim has been with Charles Schwab for 22 years and is managing director of Digital Banking Solutions.
See what mentees say about the program.
John Dang, René’s mentee, shares what it’s been like for him as he continues to grow his leadership skills in the financial services industry.Read more