Sara Wechter: Managing Citi’s Workforce Through Adversity


a portrait of Sarah Wechter
BUSINESS MINDED: Sara Wechter came to Emory to study health care, but a first-year internship with a start-up company shifted her interest to business. Her career at Citi has spanned from banking to human relations

Emory alumna helped financial services giant Citi navigate COVID-19 and define the future of work.

As head of global human resources (HR) for Citi, Sara Wechter 03B leads a team responsible for recruiting, training, and retaining some of the top talent in the financial services industry—about two-hun-dred-forty-thousand employ-ees in ninety-five countries.

She has made great strides since taking on the role in July 2018, setting and achieving am-bitious goals to make Citi one of the most equitable places to work in the banking industry.

Wechter championed pay-equity efforts across the multinational organi-zation and helped lead Citi to become one of the first companies to disclose annu-ally its raw pay gap data for women and minorities. She also launched a paid paren-tal-leave standard in every country where Citi operates.

The Emory alumna had many other innovative plans in motion for the company’s workforce future, but then COVID-19 forced her team to pivot on a global scale. “I wasn’t really ready for the chaos the pandemic creat-ed—no one in business was,” Wechter says. “My mind had been focused on launching new HR initiatives and then I had a huge, new, unexpected one to deal with. Luckily, Citi is blessed with a fantastic medical office and security team, and all of our business heads came together quickly to make sure our employees around the world were safe.”

She ran Citi’s North American crisis response team and oversaw the big strategic decisions worldwide for its workforce. “Transparent and frequent communication with our employees was key,” Wechter says. “We let them know we were more focused on health data than we were on some set date when it came to when and how people would return to the office.”

Like many major employers, Citi transitioned to remote and hybrid work environments wherever it could. “If you would have asked me in early 2020 if I could imagine a hybrid bank in my lifetime, I would’ve said no,” she says. “Then just months later, it became a reality. Citi was the first large bank to commit to a hybrid model in early 2021, and we have remained consistent on it.”

Citi found the hybrid schedule improved employee productivity. “We discovered the vast majority of our employees worked more hours from home than they did in the office, primarily because they didn’t have to commute anymore,” Wechter says. “It also gave them more flexibility to take care of themselves as human beings.”

It also had a positive effect on worker well-being. “The pandemic forced us to take a step back and make our employees’ health a bigger priority—especially their mental health,” she says. “In fact, because it was such a pressing issue. I think we’re now ten years ahead of where we would have been on the mental health front without this crisis. Perhaps most important it normalized our ability to have open and transparent conversations in the workplace about stress, anxiety, and depression.”

Now that things are settling into a “new” normal, it appears Wechter’s approach to putting employees’ needs first is paying off. “Our recruiting and engagement numbers have been great,” she says. “I think people have seen what we’ve done to give them more flexibility and treat them with greater empathy. We hope they truly see us as that rare bank with a soul.”

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