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August/September 2011

Diversity/Careers August/September 2011 Issue




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Supplier diversity


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Supplier Diversity

At Bank of America, supplier development is basic

"The bank took us by the hand and cheered us on," says the CEO of WBE Nicholas Earth. "But the work and price still have to be right"


Bank of America, one of the world's largest financial institutions, serves everyone from individual customers and small- and middle-market businesses to huge corporations. It offers a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk-management products and services.

The bank began its supplier diversity program in 1990 with a focus on MBEs. The program was expanded to include WBEs when Bank of America became a founding member of WBENC in 1997.

Jaymie Mitchell, SVP and supplier diversity and development manager, explains that the bank's program "was started in response to a lack of diverse suppliers in the supply chain, and recognizing the value to our communities and our economy of ensuring that all diverse suppliers have the opportunity to compete in our marketplace."

Strong top-down support
Mitchell has been with the bank for ten years and in her current job for six of them. She says the program started with strong, top-down CEO support and other leaders acting as supplier diversity champions. It has since expanded to include SBA-certified businesses in addition to MBEs, WBEs, disabled veteran business enterprises and disadvantaged business enterprises.

Last year Bank of America spent $2.3 billion with diverse suppliers, a 21 percent increase over its 2009 spend and the highest amount in the history of the program. The total spend with small, medium-sized and diverse businesses last year was $4.1 billion, 28 percent of total supplier spending. "We are confident that we will continue to grow our spend with diverse suppliers," Mitchell adds.

Bank of America supplier development managers have their own performance goals. They use various methods to identify diverse suppliers, including NMSDC and WBENC databases, since the bank is a corporate member of both those organizations. The bank's supplier registration site is www.bankofamerica.com/suppliers.

A focus on development
The bank has a strong focus on development with all its suppliers. "We provide coaching through our sourcing and supplier managers. And we support continuing ed for our diverse suppliers at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and similar programs," Mitchell explains. "We are proud that we're integrated with our corporate social responsibility team of local market-delivery and community-relations managers across the country."

Last year Mitchell worked personally with some twenty companies. "Supplier development has become a core competency of our program," she says.

Nicholas Earth works for the bank
Arita Nicholas, CEO of Nicholas Earth Printing (Houston, TX), completed a 1974 BA in special education at the University of Missouri, but she soon decided that her interests lay in the corporate world. She spent twenty-four years with Trans World Airlines, honing her management and people skills.

In 2000 she left the airline to start her own printing business, but the disaster of 9/11 seriously damaged the young company. When Nicholas started the business up again in 2002, Hilary Sharon, a Bank of America print manager at the time, advised her to find a partner.

"The advice was great," Nicholas says. "We partnered with Earth Color of New York (New York, NY). That gave us the flexibility we needed, increased our capabilities and gave us access to more equipment."

Nicholas Earth Printing is both a WBE and an MBE. Nicholas runs the business along with her husband, and Earth Color owns forty-nine percent.

When the relationship with Bank of America began, "Hilary Sharon looked over our facilities and suggested how we could grow. She introduced us to others in printing at the bank. Then when Jaymie Mitchell came on board we grew our relationship from a small indirect spend to a direct contract," Nicholas says happily.

Nicholas applauds the level of mentoring at the bank. "I've been invited to Women Presidents' Organization events. I've met colleagues from other organizations there who helped me to network. I've also been encouraged to attend NMSDC and WBENC conferences and to network more. When Jaymie Mitchell is on your case, she really works hard."

Besides the actual printing, Nicholas Earth also offers postal solutions and direct mail integrated with smartphone technology. The company has other corporate clients, including Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T;, ESPN, Continental/United Airlines and Dell Computer. It's certified by the California Public Utilities Commission and the Texas Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) program.

"Bank of America has always had faith in us and has helped us reach this new level," Nicholas says. "Getting work is all about networking, and having Bank of America as one of our biggest clients gives us credibility with other companies. They've taken us by the hand and cheered us on.

"But we have to remain competitively priced and do quality work or we won't get the contract," Nicholas says with a smile.

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