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Empowering Communities: Teresa Pelletier on Financial Education and Volunteerism at Fidelity Investments

Wednesday, 22 May 2024 11:45 AM

NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / May 22, 2024 / Common Impact
Common Impact Leadership Spotlight Blog

Teresa Pelletier's journey has been marked by a deep-rooted commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of people and communities. Starting her career as a local reporter, Teresa developed a passion for community engagement in print media before moving into community relations and education. This experience laid the foundation for her work at Fidelity Investments as vice president of community relations.

One of Fidelity's core goals has been to strengthen and secure the financial well-being of their customers and clients while also creating inclusivity and access to historically underserved communities. As part of Fidelity's efforts to accomplish this goal, employees engage in volunteer work that supports financial education and economic mobility initiatives. Through a 20-year partnership with Common Impact, more than 3,600 Fidelity associates have participated in skills-based volunteering projects to support nonprofit leaders in strengthening their operations and capacity, from human resources to business planning, website builds, data support, and more.

Teresa has been a key leader in efforts to increase financial literacy for young people in underserved communities for the last ten years. She has led efforts to increase financial literacy for young people in under-served communities through partnerships with leading nonprofit organizations. She also leads a team focused on community involvement and employee volunteerism across the country. Her leadership has contributed to Fidelity becoming a leader in social responsibility, empowering employees to give back and make a difference in their communities. In this interview, we delve into Teresa's career journey and explore Fidelity's social impact and skills-based volunteering initiatives.

"We are seeing a shift to more employee-led volunteer opportunities. Associates are looking to give their time and talent to causes they care about personally rather than letting their employer select the organizations they work with."

Tell us about your career journey, including how you started and what led you to your current role as Vice President of Community Relations at Fidelity.

I started my career as a local newspaper reporter. I later transitioned to a community relations role at the media company, leading their education programs, sponsorships, and a state-wide annual fundraising initiative for a local nonprofit. During one of the projects in that role, I collaborated with Fidelity staff, and it sparked my interest in connecting corporate resources to communities. That experience eventually led me to join Fidelity in a regional community relations role almost 13 years ago.

I now have the privilege of leading a team of talented professionals across the country. Our team fosters meaningful relationships in the community and acts as a liaison between the community and Fidelity. The community relations team oversees Fidelity Cares -- our employee volunteer program -- youth financial education initiatives, and community engagement activities, including civic engagement.

What is the common thread or underlying principle that has guided your career trajectory across different organizations and industries?

People. I'm a natural connector and have always been interested in what makes people tick. I seek out the unique qualities an individual can bring to any situation. One of the best things about my current work is building relationships and being a "professional dot connector."

Tell us about the history of Fidelity's commitment to social impact and how it has progressed to become integral to the organization's support of communities.

Fidelity has always been committed to giving back, but we often did so quietly or with a fragmented approach across our 11 regions. The pandemic had a significant impact on our social impact strategy. We took the opportunity to reset and align our work to make the most impact. That led us to our current focus areas: 1) Providing financial education, an area where Fidelity has longstanding expertise in the fundamentals and emerging trends within financial services, and 2) Skills-based volunteering, which leverages another one of our greatest assets: our talented and passionate 74,000+ person workforce.

In January 2023, we launched Invest in My Education, a $250M social impact initiative that provides access to education and support for underserved students, something Fidelity is extremely passionate about. As part of their scholarship, students are matched with Fidelity mentors to guide them through school, graduation, and employment. Students are also encouraged to complete financial education courses online to support good money habits.

Through these initiatives, Fidelity is making a significant impact by empowering underserved students with the resources and guidance they need to succeed. This program helps students achieve their educational and career goals and fosters financial literacy, which is crucial for their long-term stability and success. By investing in these communities, Fidelity is cultivating future generations of knowledgeable and skilled individuals who may become our customers and associates.

What is the importance of supporting and prioritizing employee well-being and engagement at Fidelity?

It's critical. We see these offerings as a win-win. A Harvard Business Review study found that employees who volunteered performed better on work tasks. Volunteering is not necessarily something an associate does off the side of their desk, but something to connect our associates to a bigger purpose. It provides a fantastic level of professional development, exposure to different areas across the business, and more. 98% of Fidelity employees think it is important to support social causes and nonprofits in their community, and more than three-quarters of associates who participated in our annual month of service said that volunteering influences their decision to stay at Fidelity. We're pleased to see the data reflect how powerful volunteering is as an engagement tool because our employees are one of our most important assets.

Over the past 20 years, Fidelity Investments and Common Impact have developed a strong partnership centered on employee engagement initiatives, including skills-based volunteering, board training, and nonprofit education. As someone deeply involved in corporate affairs and strategic collaborations at Fidelity, what aspects of this enduring partnership with Common Impact stand out?

I've been struck by how mutually beneficial this relationship has been for Common Impact, Fidelity associates, and the nonprofits we work with. We all take something valuable away from these volunteering programs. We are grateful for the upskilling that these opportunities provide. Associates can take on projects in areas they're interested in and then bring what they learn into their day jobs or their next role at Fidelity. It is inspiring to see people's passion come to life when they have a chance to advance their skills while supporting nonprofits in a meaningful and lasting way.

What are some of the most significant impacts of our collaboration have you noticed?

This collaboration provides concrete data for us to reflect on so we can let the numbers do the talking. In the 20 years our companies have worked together, we generated a collective $20.7M in social return on investment. Our associates' skills have benefited 652 nonprofits, and over 3,600 associates have been engaged in 585 skills-based volunteering projects, whether those were one-day sprints or ongoing consulting work. Our partnership has created meaningful connections and a lasting impact. Our associates have shared personal growth and fulfillment stories from their volunteer experiences. At the same time, the nonprofits have expressed deep gratitude for the expertise and support that have helped them thrive.

What projects or initiatives do you think were particularly successful or meaningful?

One of the nonprofits we supported through Common Impact is Achievement First; a top-performing charter school network. They are dedicated to supporting historically underserved students from low-income households who will be among the first in their families to attend college. Seven volunteers from Fidelity's Corporate Technology Group worked with Achievement First for four months, volunteering four to eight hours a week to help unify the nonprofit's finance and HR systems under a single data management system. This work helped Achievement First operate more efficiently, enabling them to serve students better. Plus, volunteers noted it was a valuable professional development opportunity, making them more likely to recommend Fidelity as a great workplace.

From your perspective, what are the emerging trends in the social impact landscape?

We are seeing a shift to more employee-led volunteer opportunities. Associates are looking to give their time and talent to causes they care about personally rather than letting their employer select the organizations they work with, even through volunteer opportunities arranged by their employer. We see associates become more invested in their volunteer work and Fidelity because they're empowered to give back in a way that feels right for them.

We have also seen more intentionality across corporate impact functions to prioritize community needs. This results in a broader number of nonprofits receiving corporate volunteer support. It also puts nonprofits in the driver's seat to identify the types of support, expertise, and projects they would most benefit from to achieve their goal.

Common Impact has always been helpful in matching the needs of nonprofits to the skills and availability of Fidelity volunteers. We will stay close to these trends and use them to inform how we're delivering on our long-term commitment to provide value to the nonprofits in our communities.

How do Fidelity's core values influence how you approach collaborating with Common Impact?

Across our business, we prioritize listening to our stakeholders' needs and providing opportunities that align with those needs. In the Community Relations space, our "customers" are our communities and nonprofit collaborators. Through our relationship with Common Impact, we offer what organizations tell us they need, including a range of competencies. Perhaps they don't need a team to beautify a playground-what they really need is a go-to-market campaign for an upcoming fundraising effort.

What has made Fidelity a leader in the social impact space and a highly desired organization to work at?

We are lucky to have a loyal and tenured workforce partly because of our associates' connection to our company's purpose. We are proud of our culture here at Fidelity and see volunteer opportunities like those provided through Common Impact as a value-add for our overall associate experience. These opportunities help deepen an associate's connection with Fidelity's purpose and with their coworkers and communities.

What steps has Fidelity taken to adapt to the changing business landscape, particularly considering the rise of intelligent technologies?

Fidelity is interesting because, in addition to the steadfastness we are known for as we approach our 80th anniversary, we're also known for our focus on emerging trends. We have groups like Fidelity Labs, which are dedicated to product incubation. And FCAT, our Fidelity Center for Applied Technology, researches and experiments with emerging technologies and trends that impact our customers and broader society. This dedication to innovation helps us stay ahead in the industry and enhances our ability to drive meaningful social impact. By leveraging our technological advancements and industry expertise, we can better support our social impact initiatives and amplify the positive effects on our customers and the communities we serve.

For more social impact content like this, follow us on LinkedIn  and sign up  for our monthly newsletter. Ready to learn more about skills-based volunteering or social impact programs for your company? Reach out.

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Contact Info:
Spokesperson: Common Impact
Email: [email protected]

SOURCE: Common Impact

Environmental, Social and Governance
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