Maria: As we look ahead to Memorial Day, the unemployment rate for veterans who served since September of 2001 is 6.8% compared to 5.7% for non-veterans. Bank of America is trying to change that as part of the Bank’s 90-year effort to support active military members and veterans.
Joining me right now is Bank of America's senior military affairs executive Jeff Cathey and Merrill Lynch Vice President Anthony Amodeo, both also veterans of the U.S. Navy. Good to have you on the program. Thank you for being here. Why don't you first characterize the situation? Why has it been so tough when veterans come back and re-emerge into civilian life?
Jeff: Well I would say they are deployed a lot. There are very few of them and their operational tempo is quite high, their dwell time when they come back has been a rapid turn around and they are highly trained units. So to try to correlate what they are doing and translate a skill set that can convince corporate America and other companies of what it is they bring to the fight is a bit of a challenge.
Maria: You would think what they bring to the table is leadership, is discipline, and so many other things they have learned and led in some of the toughest places in the world. To me that seems like an easy sell.
Jeff: It is. We have 7,000 Anthonys at Bank of America that currently work as veterans, reservists and guardsmen. We made a commitment over the next few years to hire 10,000 more veterans and reservists but it is one of many things we do, we’ve got some property donations, a three year commitment to military recipients through nonprofits. We’ve got a third year in a row of Express Your Thanks and honor and appreciation and we are just a Bank so we leverage some of our key nonprofit partners in this space, the Wounded Warrior Project, Welcome Back Veterans. And to do it on a full front, we see this as an opportunity, it is talent, it’s work ethic, it’s attitude and it’s people like Anthony.
Maria: Anthony, tell us about your role.
Anthony: I work in the investment liquidity solutions branch of our global transaction services. What I do on a daily basis is work with our commercial and corporate clients to maintain visibility, access and control over their operating cash.
Maria: What kind of reception do you see from companies when you are welcoming veterans back?
Anthony: I think generally pretty warm. It takes a lot of initiative and you have to be proactive, and for anyone changing careers and moving into a new field to reach out and make those connections. But in my own personal experience when I reach out to people and explain that I was a veteran coming out of the Navy, looking to start a new career and I’d like to learn about what these people do, I found people were very receptive and gave me their time.
Maria: What is the toughest part of reemerging, Jeff?
Jeff: I would just say, this is a new mission for a veteran. He or she has to lead it. There are no orders that are written to do that mission and in many ways they have got to decipher the new language. It’s a new set of acronyms; there are a lot of support networks out there. They have got to take that on and connect with the business world.
Maria: This is a great story and what Bank of America is doing is truly positive. What is your take on what is going on in the VA and the horrible treatment of veterans?
Jeff: Well, I don’t know about the horrible treatment; I went through it and Anthony did. It was good on my end, my brother's end and so forth. I know General Shinseki and the Deputy over there are great Americans. They have some support programs, we went to the VA showcase in D.C. a few months ago and they have some key leaders and good people there. So as far as what has happened that is in the paper and so forth, I know he serves at the pleasure of the President and they’ll just have to let that …
Maria: And you haven't seen anything like that?
Jeff: At all.
Maria: In terms of opportunities, where do you think veterans fit in best in a financial services company?
Jeff: We have a program by my fellow director. I lead a military affairs team inside the bank and then we have 27 employee networks, so we’re connected. We are finding veterans across the spectrum. So, whether it is in technology and operations or IT or trading or sales and research or financial advisers, we have room for them on all those fronts.
And not only do we recruit them, we welcome them aboard properly and bring them in to retain them. We onboard them properly and then employee network with them and say here is what you've got going and then identify them as leaders. We have a young man I met last night, Sergeant David Wanton. We hired him a year and a half ago. He went to Fallujah and he is in derivatives now. He gets in there and we support him internally and it is a great success.
Maria: Good for you. Thanks for doing what you are doing and thank you both for your service to our country. We appreciate your time today. Bank of America Senior Military Affairs Executive Jeff Cathey and Bank of America Merrill Lynch Vice President Anthony Amodeo. Thank you, gentlemen.
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On May 20, Jeff Cathey, Senior Military Affairs Executive at Bank of America, and Anthony Amodeo, Vice President at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, appeared on Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo. As Navy veterans and Bank of America employees, they discussed the challenges veterans face and the impact our military and veteran support programs can have in assisting with their transition back to civilian life.