How DEI Leads the Way at This Colorado Bank

Generally speaking, banking isn’t a diverse industry. That’s not the case at FirstBank.

Written by Brendan Meyer
Published on Dec. 08, 2021
How DEI Leads the Way at This Colorado Bank
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“What if a bank didn’t fit the stereotype?”

That’s the first sentence spoken by the narrator of FirstBank’s “Faces of FirstBank” video, and it’s a purposeful one. Because generally speaking, the stigma around banking is that it’s not a diverse industry.

According to data from the Women in the Workplace report in 2021, a McKinsey collaboration with LeanIn.Org, women make up 53 percent of the entry-level banking workforce, but less than one-third at the SVP and C-suite levels. For women of color, those numbers are even bleaker, making up just one in four entry-level employees, and one in 20 at the C-suite level.

FirstBank is trying to change the reality of the industry.

At the Colorado company, 63 percent of its workforce are women, while more than 35 percent of the workforce identify as ethnically diverse. What’s more is that FirstBank recently created a new role — a director of diversity, equity and inclusion — which was filled by longtime employee Sean Choi, who joined the company 11 years ago as an intern.

It’s an all-encompassing job that oversees the company’s internal diversity committee, assists employee resource groups, implements diversity-related training for employees, guides the company’s community impact and leads the charge with diverse hiring practices.

“The ultimate goal is to help us create a positive business culture where our employees, customers and communities feel accepted, understood and valued,” Choi said.

Built In Colorado sat down with Choi to learn more about FirstBank’s DEI practices, and how they find diverse talent.


firstbank office


Why is diversity important to your team?

At FirstBank, we believe that demographic diversity creates stronger organizations. We care about creating a workplace where employees feel safe to be their authentic selves, and everyone feels valued. We’ve found that diversity enhances performance, drives innovation and allows us to make a positive impact on the communities we serve.


What types of training have you provided to hiring managers to help them navigate the interview process in an unbiased way? 

All FirstBank hiring managers are required to complete an intensive 6-month leadership development course, which includes a DEI training component. In addition, we are in the process of working with a consulting company to create a robust curriculum with a strong focus on diversity, which we hope to include in the training of our hiring managers in the future. The training we provide continues to evolve based on available resources for our hiring managers, improvements in our centralized hiring functions, and regular meetings to discuss efforts around our hiring process. 

All FirstBank hiring managers are required to complete an intensive 6-month leadership development course, which includes a DEI training component.’’


Walk us through some of the initiatives your company has put in place to ensure a more fair process for candidates.

We’ve implemented an initiative to review our talent acquisition process. For example, a small piece of that process is to revise job descriptions and job advertisements to be more inclusive. We’ve also launched several employee resource groups, which assists with attending recruiting events specifically related to their background or experience. Our current lineup of employee resource groups includes the following: Women at FirstBank, LatinX ERG, African-American ERG, Veterans ERG, and LGBTQ+ Alliance ERG. 



According to Choi, FirstBank retains talent in multiple ways. Some highlights include the company’s education and tuition reimbursement, a priority to promote from within, and providing two paid volunteer days each year. 


Where are you sourcing diverse talent from?

Our employee resource groups and minority business development groups are the experts when it comes to identifying local organizations and events to assist with sourcing and attracting diverse talent. We partner with local schools as well as outside institutions such as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to source diverse talent. 

Almost every FirstBank officer serves on nonprofit boards or committees, which has opened the door to hundreds of nonprofits that support a bevy of causes. We believe that FirstBank is only as strong as the communities it serves, and as a result, community support is a key part of our business philosophy.




Culturally, how does your company foster inclusion and belonging?

Earlier this year, FirstBank announced a new companywide strategic plan consisting of three pillars. One of those pillars is dedicated solely to our company’s DEI efforts. This year we expanded our lineup of employee resource groups and created a director of DEI role.

We believe that FirstBank is only as strong as the communities it serves, and as a result, community support is a key part of our business philosophy.’’


FirstBank also launched Colorado’s first multicultural banking center in 2020, focused on extending financial services to Hispanic, Asian and Black communities. The multicultural banking centers are retail branch locations where customers can get service from the teller line to the loan process in varying languages. The center joined the organization’s Spanish and Asian banking centers, where customers can receive banking services in their native language. Many of our internal initiatives and companywide recognitions are driven by the bank’s STRIDE committee, which stands for strength through recognition of inclusion, diversity and equity.


Responses edited for length and clarity. Photography provided by companies listed, unless otherwise noted.

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