“I would like to be an example to people that it is possible to be yourself at work. I want to encourage others to feel empowered.” myGwork spoke to Christiaan van den Berg, an analyst in asset financing and private credit structuring at Bank of America, about the importance of inclusive workplaces, Pride networks, and finding community.
Christiaan van den Berg is an analyst in the global markets division of Bank of America, sitting in the London-based fixed income structuring team, with a focus on asset financing and private credit. “I like the role – it combines my technical academic background with the possibility to interact with a wide variety of both internal and external stakeholders. I am challenged to analyse complex problems and to develop creative, bespoke financing solutions for our clients.” His entry into the bank began with a summer internship in 2020 during Covid, before re-joining the firm in April 2021.
“London ultimately became the place to be”
Christiaan grew up in a village in the north of the Netherlands and subsequently moved to Rotterdam for his studies at university. “My passion for mathematics and its applications in the real world inspired me to study econometrics and economics. I didn’t always know I wanted to move to London, but as I spent more time asking myself which topics and courses motivated me the most, I developed a strong interest in finance and so London ultimately became the place to be.”
When he joined Bank of America, Christiaan immediately immersed himself in the firm’s culture. An integral part of this culture is formed by the bank’s employee networks, which provide opportunities for employees to meet new people across business lines and support the bank’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Christiaan sits within the “Recruitment and Development” pillar of Bank of America’s LGBTQ+ Pride network, supporting the firm’s efforts to attract LGBTQ+ talent to the organisation in addition to retaining existing talent.
“Our team is always on the lookout for external events we can attend to promote the work we’re doing”
“We organise events and initiatives for new-joiners and interns. The Pride network supported the summer internship programme through a mentoring scheme, pairing senior LGBTQ+ colleagues with interns so that they could both grow and develop.” The responsibilities of the pillar also include outreach, such as showcasing Bank of America’s commitment to diversity and inclusion to university students. “In addition to organising our own LGBTQ+ focused recruitment events, our team is always on the lookout for external events we can attend to promote the work we’re doing. For example, for the past couple of years, we have had a stand at Student Pride.”
Christiaan got involved with the Pride network relatively early on in his career. “I was quite keen to get involved and did so within my first six months at Bank of America. I had not always felt that way; I suppose because of how fortunate my upbringing was in the sense that everyone around me has always been supportive and accepting. But that has made me realise – even if I haven’t personally struggled as much, it doesn’t mean that others haven’t. I think it’s important to build an environment where everyone can be themselves and grow. I want to contribute to building that environment.”
The network also provided a great opportunity, post-Covid, to meet like-minded people and socialise within the firm. “I was able to meet a variety of people across the entire organisation and develop skills that I may not otherwise have had a chance to develop in my day-to-day work,” he adds.
“I don’t have to worry about how I come across”
It all leads back to tackling some of the preconceived notions that people may have about the world of finance. “I don’t have to worry about how I come across, as far as my sexuality or gender is concerned. I don’t have to waste time or energy worrying about how I present, or whether discussing my personal life will raise any eyebrows. I feel being able to be out at work has enabled me to build more meaningful relationships with my teammates, as we understand each other better.”
For Christiaan, his involvement and readiness to take on these responsibilities is driven by his desire to be a role model to others in his community. “I would like to be an example to people that it is possible to be yourself at work. I want to encourage others to feel empowered.”
“I found the culture to be very inclusive”
It was this culture at Bank of America which encouraged Christiaan to apply. “I found the culture to be very inclusive.” It’s about community, which is an important value to Christiaan. His identity is made up of different communities – as a gay man, a Christian, and being Dutch. He actively engages with the Dutch Church in London, as a means of connecting himself with both the Dutch community and the Christian community in London; being a part of the Pride network at Bank of America is just another way for him to connect with and advocate for his community.
“When I joined the Pride network, I had the opportunity to step up and support the pillar and get more people involved. I like to bounce ideas off people, and so it was important to me that when I did get more involved, it wasn’t just me – we needed to be a team.”
Christiaan feels that he has learnt a lot from supporting the Pride network at the firm and he is proud to play a role in promoting an inclusive workplace. “I believe that the best marketing ultimately is word of mouth – if you have a strong culture, and you tell an LGBTQ+ student about this at an event, and they then go on to tell two others, you can spread the news.” Bank of America is building a culture where employees feel comfortable being who they are and bringing their whole selves to work.