A state-of-the-art health centre is just the start of Citigroup’s care for its staff, says Jenny Keefe
Up on the 36th floor, with a vista that stretches across Canary Wharf and the river Thames, Citigroup’s (otherwise known as Citi) health centre is as far removed from the average GP’s surgery as you can imagine.
Instead of harassed receptionists and careworn copies of Reader’s Digest circa 2001, the waiting room has piles of glossy Cond™ Nast magazines and is decked out with a plasma-screen television. Piped music plays in the corridors and even the sick room has ambient lighting.
Citigroup has provided a health centre for staff for many years, but last October it opened a sparkling new facility, provided by Bupa, which is now at the centre of the international banking group’s wellbeing strategy.
Robert Green, benefits manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), says: “Promoting positive health at Citi is the underlying theme that motivates me on a day-to-day basis. Under that theme, we have four potential sub-categories where our work is targeted: treatment, prevention, education, and other services.”
Green is proud of the facilities the organisation provides. “There is a wide variety of services and, from my perspective, the centre can’t be beaten in the marketplace. It holds great importance for Citi,” he says.
With 20 healthcare staff and 12 consulting rooms, Citigroup workers have an entourage to rival Mariah Carey’s. Not only can they take advantage of an on-site nurse, GP and dentist, but a chiropractor, sports masseuse and chiropodist are also on tap.
Yet with banking and financial firms currently taking a massive hit from the credit crunch, it may seem incongruous for Citigroup to be injecting large sums of money into wellbeing benefits. In April, Citigroup announced it was axing 9,000 jobs worldwide, after reporting a net loss of US$9.8bn (£5bn) for the final three months of 2007, followed by a $5.1bn (£2.6bn) net loss for the first quarter of 2008. However, the business reported total revenues of $81.7bn (£42bn) and a net income of $3.6bn (£1.8bn) for 2007.
The motivation behind Citigroup’s wellbeing programme is not based on fluffy good intentions, but instead on one solid business reason: saving cash. Not only are employees in robust health more productive, but they also make fewer insurance claims through other company-funded perks. “The reason we do health promotion is to bring down potential claims from our private medical insurance (PMI). Early intervention is key,” explains Green.
He believes it is important for the company’s staff to get an early check on any physical ailments. “The emphasis is on prevention, rather than cure. As well as the various treatments, there are also health assessments, available to all employees [some of which staff pay for],” explains Green.
The number of working hours saved by providing facilities on site also adds up to substantial financial savings. With a health centre just an apple’s throw from their desks, employees have less reason to visit GPs and dentists in far-off locations during working hours. As a result, Citigroup estimates that, in 2007, it salvaged 20,358 working hours by having a health centre on site. Based on an average hourly rate of £30 for each employee, this works out at a healthy saving of £610,740.
Employees pay nothing to visit the nurse, but must fund the cost of trips to other specialists themselves. However, this is often covered by workers’ PMI, provided by Bupa, says Green. “The insurance is fairly comprehensive. In something nearly unique to Citi, medical history is disregarded for all new joiners. Plus, it includes HIV/Aids cover, and IVF [in-vitro fertilisation] cover.”
In fact, Green claims that Citigroup is the only company to offer funding for IVF as a staff benefit. Employees who are having trouble starting a family can claim up to £15,000 worth of treatment through PMI. With each cycle costing £3,000, this allows for about five attempts.
“The treatment is available to everyone; you don’t have to be married, it is available to all. Surrogacy as well as donor insemination is also included,” says Green.
To raise employees’ awareness of wellbeing issues, Citigroup’s HR department also has a calendar bursting with special health promotions, themed around events such as the London Marathon or Cancer Awareness Day. Staff are enticed to take part with freebies, such as mineral water and fruit. “Typically, in a week we’ll have about three promotions. During one week in May, for example, we had mole screening, hydration education and promoted National Smile Month.
“Recently there was a targeted promotion around the London Marathon. Beforehand we did a talk on how to prevent sports injuries. Then, after the race, we told people: ‘Well done, you’ve run the marathon. Now, have you got any aches and pains? Come and speak to us, we have got a sports massage therapist on site’,” says Green.
The organisation also runs posture clinics, where workers are given tips on the safest way to sit to prevent health problems. When the HR team first offered these sessions to traders, a special room was set up near the trading floor, allowing busy staff to take advantage without straying too far from the coalface.
And when it comes to demonstrating the success of such preventative perks, Citigroup’s mole-screening benefit is a shining example. “This year, as last year, we offered employees free mole screenings. The cost was met by Citi, and, basically, if you’ve got a mole that you are concerned about, then you can have a screening. We were able to [identify] four cases, including myself, who had to have a mole removed very quickly,” says Green.
Other healthy perks on offer include an employee assistance programme (EAP), featuring a 24-hour helpline, which workers’ close friends and family can also take advantage of. This includes eye tests and counselling, which can take place face-to-face or over the phone.
Staff can also gain tips on how to lead a healthier lifestyle using Citigroup’s health website. They simply enter details such as their eating habits, height, weight and lifestyle, into an online assessment tool which then gives healthy lifestyle hints.
Gym-goers have the option of working out at the firm’s subsidised on-site fitness club, at a cost of £35 a month. “The gym is oversubscribed [and] there’s currently a waiting list to join,” says Green.
Two subsidised restaurants aim to help staff make healthier eating choices. These hold themed days, when staff can sample different types of food, such as vegetarian or Indian options. “We have one main restaurant and then a caf™/restaurant that does a smaller variety of food. We have a number of caf™s and break-out areas,” says Green.
But health-related benefits are not all that Citigroup offers. Because 52% of its global workforce is female, family-friendly perks are another key theme. Pregnant women are given advice before and after giving birth, and an impressive 98% of mothers return to work after maternity leave.
“We have got a Maternity Matters scheme, which has been very well received, whereby we arrange mentors and presentations for women who are pregnant. So before they go off on maternity leave, we offer them a session, followed by one while they are on maternity leave, and another sesssion when they get back from maternity leave. We offer them advice and guidance at all those stages of pregnancy, be it questions about work or outside work. We also do pregnancy risk assessments for people,” explains Green.
To help employees with childcare, Citigroup has secured eight emergency childcare places at a nearby daycare centre, for which all children between the ages of three months and eight years are eligible.
Employees looking to expand their social horizons, meanwhile, can join the plethora of subsidised social groups for staff, ranging from wine appreciation to whist. The company also funds several diversity networks, which are aimed at groups such as ethnic minorities, women and parents.
Staff benefit from a generous non-contributory pension, with employer contributions of 7.5%. If they want to top up with additional contributions, the firm will match contributions up to 4% pensionable earnings for those aged over 45 years and 2% for staff under 45. Everyone over the age of 25 years is automatically enrolled in the scheme.
Looking to the future, Citigroup has plans for a flexible benefits plan, scheduled for launch this July. Green says there is a trend for flex in the banking and finance industry. “I think, having attended industry forums, that if employers don’t offer it, they’re about to offer it in the next year or so.
“It’s a tax-efficient way of doing things and, in the current climate, it saves us money and it saves our employees money, so it can only be a good thing.”
Citigroup at a glance†
Citigroup is one of the world’s largest banking groups. Although legally known as Citigroup, the firm operates under the brand name Citi.
Its beginnings date back to 1812, when it started life as the City Bank of New York. The London office was set up in 1902. Now based in Canary Wharf, it serves as headquarters for the firm’s Europe, Middle East and Africa region, which spans 55 countries.
Citigroup is divided into three businesses: institutional clients, consumer banking and wealth management. Its institutional clients unit works with companies and governments across the world, advising on issues such as mergers and acquisitions and financial restructuring, while the consumer group offers retail banking products, including loans, credit cards and insurance. The firm’s wealth management side manages assets for private clients.
The company has branches across 100 countries, with 340,000 employees, more than 12,000 of which are based in the UK. In April this year Citigroup announced plans to axe 9,000 jobs worldwide, after reporting a net loss of US$5.1bn (£2.6bn) for the first quarter of 2008. In 2007, it reported total revenues of $81.7bn (£42bn) and a net income of $3.6bn (£1.8bn).
Robert Green’s tax background comes in handy for his role as Citigroup’s benefits manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Green joined the organisation’s HR department five years ago, after initially training as an accountant on KPMG’s graduate trainee scheme. “I was destined to go into HR, and I was recruited by Citi,” he says.
He believes a head for numbers is useful in the benefits world. “The reason why I’m an accountant in the benefits role is that many benefits are quite complicated. A good knowledge of tax is essential when you are dealing with issues such as risk benefits.” During his time in his current role, Green has overseen the launch of Citigroup’s new health centre, which opened in October. He is now gearing up for the launch of the organisation’s flexible benefits plan this summer.
What are the benefits?
• Defined contribution scheme with company contributions of 7.5%.†
• Staff can make additional voluntary contributions, which the company will match up to 4% of pensionable earnings if they are over the age of 45 years and up to 2% for younger staff.†
• Automatic enrolment for staff over 25 years old.†
• On-site wellness centre, with a nurse and a private GP.†
• Private medical insurance.†
• Employee assistance programme.†
• Subsidised on-site gym membership that costs staff £35 a month.†
• 23 days plus bank holidays as standard. Employees receive 25 days on completion of five years’ service and 26 days after ten years. In both their 20th and 25th years of service, staff are given an extra five days’ holiday for that year to mark the anniversary.†
• Life insurance of four-times salary.†
• Discounts on various products, such as theatre tickets, which are offered through an online concierge service.†
• Interest-free season ticket loan up to maximum of £5,000.†
• Two part-subsidised canteens at its head office.†
• Emergency childcare places at a crøche near its headquarters.†
• Support for employees on maternity leave.
Case study: Life-saving check-up
Life-saving check-up Ray Sidders, Citigroup’s global VAT director, who has worked at the organisation for 21 years, has a very good reason to love the firm’s health centre. “A couple of years ago, I had persistent giddy spells. I’d had them before, because of an ear infection that I got from constant swimming, and assumed that it was the same again,” he says.
Erring on the side of caution, however, he asked the company nurse to give him the once-over. She insisted on tests which revealed that Sidder’s blood pressure was sky high.
“Within an hour, I was at a heart specialist in Harley Street, and one year later my blood pressure is under control. It takes ages to get an appointment with my local GP and if that was all that was available, I don’t suppose I would have bothered to get a check-up. I think the health centre saved me from what would clearly have become a very serious problem,” he explains.
With his blood pressure curbed, Ray still takes advantage of regular check-ups, travel injections and blood tests.
He is also a big fan of the firm’s family-friendly benefits. “The bank hosts a family day out for employees and their children. My children are grown up now, but these were always a great hit with my kids.”