After he was wounded on patrol in Afghanistan, Army Staff Sergeant Ben Dellinger returned to civilian life in Charlotte, North Carolina and to a two-story, four-bedroom home donated by Bank of America through its partnership with the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF).
“I know there are a lot of other veterans who deserve the same thing,” says retired Sgt. Dellinger. “So many of us got our lives totally changed or, for some, taken away in an instant. I feel like I got something back. This home gives me a sense of stability and normalcy, and I’ll never have to worry about my son having a place to live — which is the best feeling a parent can possibly have.”
As thousands of troops return home from deployment overseas, many, like Ben Dellinger, need help as they make the transition to civilian life. Last year, as part of its efforts to help revitalize communities and support the housing needs of those who have served and sacrificed for our nation and those who serve our communities, Bank of America made a commitment to donate 1,000 properties nationwide to military veterans and first responders.
Donations like these are only one part of Bank of America’s commitment to supporting our military. Since 1920, the bank has supported active service members and veterans by funding charitable organizations, offering banking services for service members, and recruiting and hiring veterans.
Today the bank serves more than 2 million active or veteran military customer households, operates military banking facilities overseas in 10 countries under contract with the Department of Defense, and employs nearly 6,000 reservists and veterans, including 1,600 hired in 2012, and since 2009 has provided more than $8 million in financial support to nonprofit partners who serve military in the areas of housing, reintegration, education and workforce development. And beyond direct financial support, employees contributed nearly 23,000 volunteer hours to more than 200 military organizations in 2012 alone as part of 1.5 million employee volunteer hours in 2012. In 2012, to coordinate and enhance the company’s efforts, the bank also launched the Military Affairs Advisory Group (MAAG). “Through this group of veterans, we can more effectively engage the military community through government agencies and military-focused nonprofits,” says Jeff Cathey, who heads the MAAG. “Military men and women and their families are an important part of the communities where we live and work, and Bank of America is in a unique position to support our service members.”
VETERANS ARE A PARTICULARLY GOOD FIT IN TECHNOLOGY AND OPERATIONS POSITIONS.
MAAG aligns with Bank of America’s social responsibility strategy to create corporate economically vibrant communities through its lending, investing and giving. Areas of focus include responsible business practices; environmental sustainability; strengthening local economies; investing in leadership; arts and culture; and diversity and inclusion.
“Support of our military and their families is just one demonstration of how we are working to be a better and more socially responsible company, leveraging a powerful combination of expertise, charitable funding and innovative programs to help meet the needs of our returning veterans,” explains Andrew Plepler, Bank of America’s Corporate Social Responsibility and Consumer Policy executive. “Whether it’s funding for job training programs or providing homes that lay the groundwork for stability, we’re focused on creating meaningful connections that will enhance the lives of our service members as they return to civilian life.”
EMPLOYEE RECRUITING AND HIRING
“Military service members bring important skills and life experiences to the bank, and so we are actively working to attract, develop and retain National Guard, reserve service members and veterans,” says Cathey, who is himself a former Navy captain. He was hired by Bank of America in 2008 to be responsible for the internal and external communication about the bank’s products and services via appropriate channels to military customers across the country and around the world. In addition to his responsibilities with the MAAG, he oversees the Bank of America contract with the Department of Defense to operate 75 banks on military installations in 10 foreign countries, and he helps deployed service members secure loans and other financial services.
The bank works with a variety of organizations to recruit top talent, including the Transition Assistance Program, Service Academy Career Conference, RecruitMilitary, the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, National Veterans Transition Services Inc. and the Wounded Warrior Project, among others. “We attended 70-plus military recruiting events in 2012,” Cathey says. “Right now we employ nearly 6,000 reservists and veterans, and last year alone, we hired almost 1,600 new service members and veterans in information technology, operations, home loans, consumer banking and wealth management.”
“We offer a wide range of programs to engage military service members and their families who work for the bank,” Cathey says. For instance, the company provides paid military leave for up to five years, including continued medical and insurance benefits and personal financial management, when employees are called to active duty. “In addition, when a military spouse, partner or parent receives a permanent change of station in the United States, we help affected employees find new roles within the company at their new location.”
BANK OF AMERICA HAS DONATED MORE THAN 200 PROPERTIES TO MILITARY COMMUNITY PARTNERS.
Support for employees who are veterans or military service members and for their families is provided primarily through Bank of America’s Military Support and Assistance Group (MSAG), which has 25 chapters. Says Cathey: “The group is a network for veterans and their families, as well as for active duty/reserve military and other employees, to work together on areas of common interest and to support those affected by their experiences of military life. They also work to create opportunities for advancement and leadership development through networking, mentoring and information forums.” Across the country, MSAG has increased its support and volunteerism to local military organizations, with 125 volunteer events completed in 2012.
“We have integrated our military strategy across the entire organization to help ensure that we meet the needs of military customers and provide the right products and customer support,” says Cathey. “We offer full-service banking products and services to more than 2 million active and retired military households and through our Military Bank Overseas Division.” Among the special programs and services offered to active-duty military is a dedicated support team that can assist with mortgage options and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) benefits, loan modifications and reduced mortgage interest rates. “We also offer six military-themed affinity cards, and SCRA-eligible accounts receive a 6% rate on their cards during active duty, extending for an additional six months after the SCRA-eligible period ends.” The bank provided $53 billion in home financing in 2012, including $9.6 billion in Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veterans Administration (VA) mortgages.
Philanthropy, community outreach and national partnerships: In 2012, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation committed more than $2.6 million to military nonprofits focused on investments in housing, jobs and critical needs for veterans and service members and their families.
Housing support: Through partnerships with organizations such as Operation Homefront, MWSF, Homes for Our Troops, and the Habitat for Humanity Homes for Heroes program, among others, the bank provides housing assistance to transitioning service members and their families tied to integrated or wraparound case management, safety net programs and services, emergency assistance and access to benefits. “To date, Bank of America has donated more than 200 properties to military community partners that ensure the homes are transferred to deserving wounded warriors across the country,” says Cathey. “Our commitment is to provide up to 1,000 properties in the next three years.”
Critical safety net services and reintegration programs: The bank works with nonprofits — such as Operation Homefront, Fisher House and Community Solutions — that connect civilian and military communities and help military families access critical tools and resources necessary to transition from active duty to civilian life.
Workforce development: Bank of America continues to partner with the Wounded Warrior Project, Student Veterans of America and other organizations that provide transitional employment opportunities, job training and vocational education for service members, their spouses and caregivers.
Financial education resources: “We continue to deliver and support programs that assist service members and veterans in achieving financial empowerment,” Cathey says. Efforts include financial education and coaching given by Bank of America Community Volunteers, the company’s employee volunteer network.
We also provide financial education, wealth building and tax-preparation services and scholarship opportunities for service members and their families through nonprofits including the Wounded Warrior Project, Student Veterans of America, Military Saves, Special Operations Warrior Foundation and the National Disability Institute.
WORKING WITH FEDERAL AGENCIES
Bank of America’s MAAG works with federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, the Housing Policy Council and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. “We appreciate the opportunity to share our perspective in public policy discussions regarding military issues,” says Cathey, “particularly when it comes to things like the expansion of SCRA benefits and Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) rights.”
IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO
“America’s service members help keep us safe every day, and Bank of America is honored to help them in any way we can,” says Cathey. “But beyond simply being the right thing to do, we see our commitment to supporting the military as key to our overall success. After all, hiring veterans is a smart business decision, and helping them to reintegrate into civilian life and build economic security supports and reinvigorates local economies across the country — and that is a great move for all of us.”
Some of the featured participants are not employees of U.S. Trust. The opinions and conclusions expressed are not necessarily those of U.S. Trust or its personnel.