Race Equality Awards 2016 - Developing Talent - American Express

BAAN Mentoring Programme

The Black and Asian Network (BAAN) is a key international employee network in American Express with more than 660 members across all levels of seniority. With 88% of the respondents to a BAAN Annual Survey indicating a desire for a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) mentor, BAAN’s pilot mentoring programme was launched in 2013. The programme provides mentees access to senior leaders in departments and locations of their choice. 

The aims of the programme include: 

  • Providing equal access to senior leaders to all employees regardless of their level
  • Increasing employee engagement and support career development objectives of BAME employees as well as the wider UK employee community
  • Offering mentoring opportunities to all UK employees and contractors, regardless of their location 

In 2015, BAAN extended the programme to all UK employees as a pilot, working in close collaboration with the UK’s existing employee networks, the UK HR Team, senior leaders from a range of business units, as well as the Public Affairs team which designs all communications to drive engagement of all UK employees and contractors. 

The programme is sponsored and endorsed by senior leaders in the UK organisation. To support the launch, executive sponsors of the two lead employee networks in the UK and from eight additional smaller employee networks were actively engaged in communicating the programme to peers, publicising the benefits and secure individuals to volunteer as mentors. 

At launch, BAAN UK received 700 applications from five UK locations – including employees and contractors working remotely. 60% of the applicants hadn’t experienced mentoring before; 42% weren’t a member of any employee network. 

Additional efforts from senior leaders in specific business units and the technology team, as well as HR, meant that BAAN secured 600 mentors at manager level – ensuring that all successful applicant requests for a mentor could be fulfilled, even when demand initially outstripped supply in certain areas.  

Successful applicants benefit from one-to-one matching with a more senior mentor based on stated line of business, location and development objectives. 

The 2015 BAAN Mentoring Survey results indicate a number of employees benefitted from the programme across a range of areas including promotions, lateral moves and job enrichment opportunities which may not have arisen had BAAN not been the matchmaker.  

This was the first cross line of business mentoring programme at American Express, and the
Programme won a Global Collaboration Award from the AXP American Express Global Diversity and Inclusion Office in New York. Its successful launch, with engagement and delivery across multiple business lines is testament to the positive impact a strategically driven employee network can have for its BAME community and the wider organisation. Consequently, the UK-wide pilot BAAN mentoring scheme is now being considered for a rollout in New York and beyond.

BAAN has identified several criteria that are integral to launching and maintaining an effective BAME mentoring programme:

  • Senior leadership engagement and commitment was and is critical to driving success and demonstrating credibility
  • Engaging peer networks beyond the BAME community 
  • Providing an offering to all UK employees ensured that employees who are not part of an employee network get an equal opportunity to become a mentor or to obtain a mentor
  • Using centralised communications channels ensured that the programme was instantly recognisable as a corporate initiative with appropriate sponsorship
  • Dedicated resources to manage the one-to-one matching ensured a consistent approach