SunTrust employees get a vacation day to get their finances in order

October 6, 2013

Company: SunTrust Banks.

Employees: More than 1,100 locally; 26,000 nationwide.

Amid a strong performance year in 2012, SunTrust Banks was looking for a new way to reward its employees.

Ken Carrig, the firm’s chief human resources officer, wanted to identify a perk that staffers would enjoy that also was in line with the company’s mission of promoting financial health. And so in 2013, SunTrust began its Day of Purpose program, which grants employees an extra vacation day to get their own personal finances in order or to spend time volunteering to help others do the same.

“We’re a purpose-driven company. And so our purpose is defined as lighting the way to financial well-being,” Carrig said.

Employees have used the time to accomplish a variety of tasks: Many people spent the day filling out tax returns or meeting with a financial planner. One person volunteered at a middle school to teach the children about financial matters. Another met with college officials to discuss financial aid packages for his daughter’s education.

Neha Amin, a branch manager, was excited to find out she’d have a free day to focus on her finances.

“This is something that we help our clients with daily, we just don’t take time for ourselves,” Amin said.

Amin and her husband visited a financial planner to assess their retirement plan, which they hadn’t re-evaluated since 2002.

Carrig said that there’s no formal channel for reporting when one takes their Day of Purpose; staffers simply have to clear it with their supervisor. They’re asked to share with their manager what task they plan to focus on, and when they return, report back on the lessons that they learned.

Carrig said the Day of Purpose has been popular with employees. While SunTrust hasn’t tracked exactly how many people have used the perk, Carrig said the article introducing the concept has been the most-read story ever on the company’s intranet, which suggests that many staffers are interested in it.

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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