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Employee-led groups bring education, levity to St. Louis Fed

Employee-led groups bring education, levity to St. Louis Fed

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Theatrical productions, tai chi workshops and the sounds of schoolchildren reciting poetry aren’t what you typically find at a bank.

But at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis these activities and more can be found throughout the year and help explain why the Fed is ranked No. 1 among St. Louis’ largest employers for its benefits and work environment.

The St. Louis Fed — one of 12 independent regional reserve banks that are part of the Federal Reserve System — has more than 1,200 employees, including 1,176 in St. Louis. The Fed’s functions include supporting the U.S. Treasury’s financial operations and advancing economic education. “Our work serves a larger purpose — fostering a healthy economy,” one employee surveyed said about why she loves her job.

In addition to St. Louis, the St. Louis Fed has branches in Little Rock, Ark.; Louisville, Ky.; and Memphis, Tenn. Being part of the large Federal Reserve System provides opportunities to work in other cities and to transfer among job functions. The St. Louis Fed has hired 250 people in the past 12 months and plans to hire an additional 250 in the year ahead.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to move within the organization,” said Anna Hart, vice president of human resources and diversity and inclusion, who began her career at the Fed in HR, moved to Information Technology and switched back to HR.

At its downtown office, there’s a gym, on-site access to dry cleaning services, a coffee shop and a magnolia-filled garden for lunch breaks. Employees get tuition reimbursed while pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees, aid for adoption expenses, and access to a service that provides back-up child care if a child’s sitter calls in sick.

Beyond those benefits, several employee-led resource groups formed last year to bring in speakers and hold events that promote ongoing education, and at times, a little levity. More than 100 employees recently participated in a one-hour tai chi workshop over lunch by the Fed’s Asian resource group. The group also brought in children from The Chinese School who recited poetry in Mandarin Chinese, and brought in former Sigma-Aldrich CEO Rakesh Sachdev as a guest speaker.

“For me, it’s been personally enriching,” said Tony Leong, a consultant at the St. Louis Fed and co-chair of the Asian resource group, adding that the group gave him the opportunity to meet people who work in different departments.

The African-American employee resource group recently brought in the Black Rep Touring Company for a performance of Elephant in the Room, a show about understanding ethnicity, diversity and gender differences.

To foster innovative thinking, the Fed recently held a week-long event for employees to work with people from divisions they don’t typically interact with. Employees were given problems to tackle, including how to achieve a zero-waste work environment, with presentations given to management at the end of the week. The Fed also recently opened an innovation center for employees to hold meetings and collaborate with other employees outside of their usual workspaces.

At the beginning of each year, the St. Louis Fed’s CEO and President Jim Bullard holds a town hall meeting with employees at which they can ask questions about everything from monetary policy to parking, employees said. And, every quarter, Bullard or First Vice President and Chief Operating Officer David Sapenaro holds an informal employee Q&A session.

When employees are on vacation, they aren’t expected to check emails, another benefit employees cited as a welcome attribute. “There’s no penalty for being on vacation and unplugging,” said Karen Branding, senior vice president of public affairs. “You work hard here and there’s an understanding that work/life balance is important. Your family is important.”


Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties, a real estate agency with 589 employees in 10 local offices, ranked second among large employers. Its employees said they valued the company’s high-energy atmosphere that gives them the flexibility to operate with ample resources. “The climate at the company level is always one of great excitement and I feel like I’m an integral component of something much bigger than just me,” one employee said in the survey.

Read more information about the top large workplaces

Brokerage and investment firm Edward Jones ranked third among St. Louis’ largest employers. The Des Peres-based company has 5,525 area employees and nearly 12,000 locations in the U.S. The growing company exceeded 14,500 financial advisers for the first time in 2015, broke revenue records and reported record employee profit sharing. Edward Jones devoted 24 percent of its profit last year, $193 million, to profit sharing for employees who work 20 hours a week or more. Other benefits include flexible work schedules, $5,000 in annual tuition assistance and $5,000 for adoption expenses.

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Lisa Brown • 314-340-8127

@lisabrownstl on Twitter

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