Jessica Dewey and her son, Wyatt, are participating in Fifth Third’s concierge service for working mothers. Courtesy Ricki Brown, 1925 Heritage
For first-time moms, often the stress of learning how to care for a child combined with returning to work is so overwhelming they might decide to work part time or stay at home.
Fifth Third Bank looked at that turnover risk and saw an opportunity. In January, it launched a maternity concierge service in all 10 states in which it has a presence, including Michigan.
Tom Welch, regional president of Fifth Third Bank West Michigan, said 67 percent of the bank’s approximately 1,800 West Michigan employees are female, and at any given time, up to 250 — or around 20 percent — of those women are pregnant or nursing.
“It’s extremely important we support women in the workplace,” Welch said. “For over a decade, we’ve had a number of programs that support our female employees (for) advancement and retention, and through that, an immediate need arose from working mothers. We said, ‘Hey, how are we addressing this?’
“We came up with a free maternity concierge program designed to deal with the unique and challenging issues working mothers have through pregnancy after the baby is born and at the point moms are returning to work.”
The maternity concierge is available from pregnancy up until the baby turns 1. Welch describes the program as “the right thing to do.”
“We didn’t want to create a situation where working mothers are faced with the choice of family or career,” he said.
He said that at the time of implementation of this program, the turnover rate for women coming back from maternity leave was twice that of other female employees at Fifth Third West Michigan.
Welch said Fifth Third contracted with a third-party, women-owned concierge company called Best Upon Request, which offers an array of customized services.
The bank chose to offer child care referrals, research and product recommendations for breast pumps and big-ticket baby gear, referrals to mental health services for postpartum depression, assistance publishing birth announcements, and baby shower planning and gift registration, among other nonfinancial options.
“It creates an environment that is less stressful, where (parents) have access to resources and research that otherwise can be quite stressful,” Welch said.
Jessica Dewey, a senior compliance analyst at the bank’s East Paris campus, is one of the 3 percent of female West Michigan employees who have registered for the concierge in its first year.
She describes it as a “savior” in her time of need.
“When the program started, I was two months pregnant,” Dewey said. “We got an email about it, and I signed up right away.”
Dewey, a newlywed and a first-time mom, was facing a personal tragedy that left her feeling ill-equipped for motherhood.
“My mom was diagnosed with gallbladder cancer in 2014, and it kept spreading,” she said. “We had to take her home on hospice. I had to rearrange my whole schedule for doctor appointments. I just didn’t have time for doing the research and all of that stuff, and then Mom passed away on May 5.”
Dewey’s son, Wyatt, was born in July, and she said she continues to use the concierge.
“After I had Wyatt, the formula he was drinking was at Sam’s Club, and I didn’t have a membership, so they ordered it for me — since the bank has the membership — and they had it delivered to my house.
“They’re just right there at your fingertips, and you can send questions and they do the research for you and provide it right back to you in a very fast timeframe.”
She said the bank providing product recommendations for car seats has been one of the most helpful aspects so far.
“There’s a lot of rules and things around car seats,” she said. “I didn’t know anything: What’s the best car seat? What’s the (safety) rating? What’s the expiration date? They also provided information from other moms who have already gone through it. What was the best thing they used for their kid that helped as a first-time mom? What (age) stages do you change those car seats?”
Dewey pairs the concierge assistance she receives with other mom-friendly options Fifth Third offers, like telecommuting and flex time.
“Our normal hours are 8 to 5, and they are allowing me to rearrange my schedule and leave earlier so I can make it to appointments,” she said. “On days I have doctor appointments, they will let me work from home — I live in Portland but Wyatt’s doctor is in Grand Rapids — and then that way I can get Wyatt and come to Grand Rapids for his doctor appointments.”
Welch said the maternity concierge comes on the heels of Fifth Third announcing it would offer four weeks of paid “bonding time” for moms — on top of six weeks of standard maternity leave and/or adoptive parent leave, and eight weeks for a C-section birth. At the same time, the bank also began offering four weeks of paid paternity leave for biological and adoptive fathers.
As the father of 10 children, Welch said he understands firsthand the strains parents face with work-life balance as they care for dependents.
“I know the paternity piece of it. I know the challenges, I know the stress, I know the difficulty when you have a newborn.
“I think this is a commitment to creating environments in which all of our employees can succeed. All of our employees are different and have unique challenges, and it’s our focus to understand those differences.”
Laura Passerallo, regional communications manager for Fifth Third Bank, said the response from employees after making the announcement about the maternity concierge was overwhelming. Welch concurred.
“Within the first 24 hours, we had 158 emails, all of which were positive feedback,” he said. “This was from employees who were eager to take advantage of it, thought it was a great idea or had older kids and were saying, ‘Way to go, great job, wish this was here when I was starting out.’”
Dewey said the program isn’t perfect — she thinks they should add budgeting and cost-analysis services for the monthly expense of diapers, formula and clothing, along with investing more effort in raising awareness about the program by adding a page about it on the company intranet.
But she said her friends are always shocked when she tells them how she has benefited from it.
“Everybody I’ve been talking to about this program, they say, ‘What is that?’ And, ‘I wish my company would do something like it.’
“If every company could do something like this, it would relieve a lot of stress on parents.”