Stearns Bank: Creating Equity and Space for Understanding

by Jan/Feb 2024


As a company operating in financial services, Stearns Bank believes it’s impossible to have diversity or inclusion without creating equity first. Demonstrating how equity is central to Stearns Bank is its definition of “employees,” who are considered owners as well. Stearns Bank’s employee owners are driven to help others achieve their greatest ambitions.

On the diversity front, Stearns Bank provides a robust training program for its employee owners. The list of educational opportunities continues to grow, and the bank is currently continuing a long-lasting partnership with a
consultant that provides extensive training on topics including microaggressions, allyship and unconscious bias.

Through these additional partnerships, team members have taken part in valuable training centered on understanding Islamic cultures; diversity training for the bank’s leadership team; and companywide DISC (dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness) training, enabling employees to effectively understand how individuals and their colleagues think about and approach various situations.

Stearns Bank takes reports of discrimination and microaggressions very seriously. Bank employees can report concerns in multiple ways, including via an online reporting method, with an option for anonymity, or by connecting directly with a member of the human resources, legal or leadership departments. The bank handles reports through a consistent process to ensure that team members are treated with respect and that the bank fosters an environment free of discrimination and bias.

Stearns Bank is also committed to equipping its team with a better understanding of how to recognize situations that should be reported. Currently, the bank is undergoing companywide microaggression training. The bank’s ongoing DE&I training sessions have helped it create a space of understanding and rethinking to shift away from old habits. Stearns has also created multiple channels for team members to connect with each other, learn from one another and celebrate each other’s uniqueness. For example, Stearns Bank hosts ongoing weekday virtual “huddles” where large and small groups from all departments come together to share ideas, collaborate and get to know one another,
despite a large percentage of them working remotely.

Further, Stearns Bank partners with DE&I experts and consultants to build a foundation of intentional growth in equity, inclusion and belonging. The company has invested in the purchase of software designed to support inclusive communications for employees, candidates and customers, and will utilize the software as a driving force in establishing inclusive language companywide. Stearns Bank measures its DE&I success in a few ways, the first and foremost being the active participation level of its entire team in training, surveys and activities. In 2022, an in-depth anonymous survey of Stearns’ employees confirmed that DE&I is highly valued. More than 80% of the bank’s employees voluntarily participated in the survey, which found the team is eager to learn and grow collectively and individually.

Stearns Bank plans to continue tracking team member demographics to ensure the company’s strategic vision, mission and values are founded in an environment that is intentional in inclusivity, belonging and equity for team members and customers alike.

Finally, the bank has responded to research showing that 4.5% of U.S. households are unbanked or underbanked (meaning they don’t have a checking or savings account) by creating its mission around lessening that disparity. Stearns strives to give access to unbanked and underbanked individuals, with the goal of assisting them in creating enterprise and wealth for not only themselves but for their loved ones and their business. •

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