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First Tennessee increases focus on diversity and inclusion

First Tennessee Bank elevated Lynne Walker’s status 27 months as the bank sought to enhance its strategy for diversity and inclusion in the company and its communities.

According to information released this week, First Tennessee has more than doubled its diversity spend in two years to about 15 percent and is “reaching out to African Americans, Hispanics, women, millennials and others in ways that respect their values and backgrounds.”

Walker, executive vice president and director of affinity strategy for the bank, said those results and other measurements result from making diversity and inclusion a core business strategy and operating principle.

“Diversity is about recognizing that our business is taking place in a world that is constantly evolving, but customers will only see that we are serious about this if they see themselves reflected in our organization. Inclusion is making them feel valued and comfortable, but we believe there is another component – and this is the hard part – affinity,” Walker said.

“Finding affinity with someone who is very different from you takes the courage to have candid conversations and spend time in different environments. Since implementing our affinity strategy, we have begun to do this spontaneously as a normal course of business.”

First Tennessee developed its approach in 2015 and now operates on an updated equation: diversity + affinity = inclusion.

The reporting structure for the bank’s affinity strategy has Walker reporting directly to David Popwell, president and chief operating officer of the bank, with dotted line reporting to John Daniel, chief human resources officer. The objective is to ensure that diversity and inclusion is a 360-degree core business imperative for talent, customers, vendors and community.

Popwell detailed First Tennessee’s approach to diversity and inclusion at a “Diversity and Best Practices” conference in Chicago recently.

“To ensure awareness, foster creativity and monitor progress, First Tennessee Bank is using technology to produce data that can be measured and analyzed for all facets of the company,” Popwell said. “This includes human resources, corporate contributions, vendor relations, customers and community partners.”

Walker already had 30-plus of banking experience when she was promoted from senior vice president of treasury management to help First Tennessee capitalize on opportunities to make its commitment to diversity and inclusion highly visible in the company and its communities. She said executive support from Daniel, Popwell, and Bryan Jordan, chairman and CEO of First Tennessee’s parent company, First Horizon National Corp., led to introducing new programs at First Tennessee to recruit and promote diversity in the workforce.

“Our objective is to create a corporate culture that promises, maintains and sustains a diverse and inclusive work environment,” Daniel said. “We are committed to promoting an environment where all employees are respected, empowered and enabled to use their skills and abilities. That impacts access to the best talent, best customers and best market share.”

First Tennessee Bank celebrated its 153rd anniversary earlier this year.

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