Often depicted as greedy, untrustworthy or simply boring, it is fair to say bankers don’t enjoy a great reputation these days. But a group of Citi’s employees are showing their fun and socially responsible side by taking part in the BBC’s reality show, The Choir: Sing While You Work.
Presented by choirmaster Gareth Malone, the TV programme, which will air tonight on BBC Two, sees Citi’s 22-strong choir competing against four other organisations -Birmingham City Council, P&O Ferries, Sainsbury’s and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service – in a bid to be named the country’s best workplace choir.
‘We wanted to give the public an insight into a bank like Citi,’ David Poole, managing director of UK private bank, told Spear’s. ‘By taking part in The Choir, we wanted to show that inside the banks – sometimes seen as rather sterile office blocks that seem to have no faces – there are a lot of diligent, hard-working people who are doing their best in the name of responsible finance.’
With eleven nationalities represented, Citi has the show’s most diverse choir, comprising employees from different divisions; four private bankers, the CEO of investment banking, a trader and a cleaner.
‘It brought everybody together on a completely equal basis. It created a fantastic sense of teamwork, a great sense of camaraderie and friendship between people from different departments that wouldn’t have necessarily met each other in a normal working day,’ Poole said.
Last week’s episode showed Malone choosing Citi choir’s members and helping them rehearse over two months for their first performance in front of colleagues and families. (If you missed it, you can watch it on BBC iPlayer.) The best two moments are Poole’s goofy dancing on the top of Citi’s iconic building in Canary Wharf and Malone asking the choir to choose a song that represents Citi, to which someone proposes ‘Save me’, before adding ‘But that’s probably five years too late.’
Tonight, it’s time for the quarter-final, with the five choirs having to sing a classical piece before one of them will be eliminated from the competition. If Citi makes it to the next round, the group will sing gospel and soul in the semi-final next week.
To practice, choirs members had to take time out of their already busy working schedules, something Poole says was somehow ‘relaxing’.
‘It’s quite intense to work in the financial services world. So being able to take some time out and breathe from our stomachs, as opposed to from our throats, is something that we really enjoyed doing,’ he said.
The bank’s choir has also been singing at various corporate events recently, and Citi is considering establishing a permanent choir to engage in charitable projects.
‘We are very keen to keep the teamwork going, to keep the fun and sense of entertainment going and we hope to expand it next year,’ says Poole, ‘And it’s possible that other offices around the world may consider having their own choirs. We could even have a Citi sing-off!’
But while the public enjoyed watching a bunch of bankers promising to change their behaviour while signing ‘Man In The Mirror’ by Michael Jackson, someone at Poole’s house wasn’t too thrilled to see him on TV.
‘My daughter, who is a 15-year-old teenage girl, was particularly concerned to see her dad dancing on the roof at the beginning of the show. There was a big cringe moment when she saw me doing the worst possible form of dad dancing on television with her friends, who are all quite trendy. I lost a lot of credibility with her but I hope that in the next episode we can make her, and Citi, feel proud.’