Mentoring with a twist: Jorge Ruiz, head of digital banking, Citi Latin America (left) talks to an MBA student as part of reverse mentoring
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MBA student Gabriel Perez and Montserrat Garrido, a Citi executive, are big fans of mentoring – indeed, this was how the two of them met. But for them mentoring comes with a twist.

They are part of a group of 15 University of Miami students and 15 executives from Citi Latin America who teamed up over the past six months in a programme of reverse mentoring – in which it is the students that mentor the executives.

Mr Perez, who is just coming to the end of his first year of MBA studies, says that he applied for the scheme as soon as he heard about it last September. With a summer’s internship now secured with Citi in New York, thanks in part to the mentorship programme and in part to the personal support of Ms Garrido, the scheme has certainly paid off for him in the short term. “I was able to understand more about Citi as a company,” he says.

For both Citi and the business school there have been multiple benefits. One of the aims of the project was to help Citi executives understand how millenials use social media and to understand how they think about banking, particularly millenials in Latin America. Although Citi could have used reverse mentoring with employees within the company, working with the undergraduate and MBA students from the University of Miami had an added value, says Jorge Ruiz, managing director of business development and digital banking head for Latin America. “People are looking at you from a different point of view.”

Ms Garrido, head of marketing for the treasury and trade solutions for Citi Latin America, says she had three objectives in participating – to learn about the latest technology and apps, to learn more about being a manager of young people and to have an understanding of the millennial view of banking.

As part of the six-month programme Ms Garrido and Mr Perez teamed up with other participants to conduct a research project among millenials in Latin America. The research, though not “heavy duty market research” according to Ms Garrido, showed that although millenials were happy with secure online banking, they were not comfortable with banking through social media platforms.

Eugene Anderson, dean of the business school at the University of Miami and a marketing specialist, says the reverse mentoring scheme was about skills and pertinency. “We’re trying to get more experiential learning and relevance into the curriculum at all levels.|”

The programme with Citi will be repeated next year and the school is looking to work with other companies, too. “There are other close corporate friends of the schools that might be very interested in doing this,” says the dean, pointing out that 1,300 multinationals have their Latin American office in Miami.

Reverse mentoring might also be of use closer to home. When professors heard about the programme at faculty meetings, they were also keen. “Several of the faculty said, ‘Can I have a reverse mentor?’” reports the dean.

And Prof Anderson believes he benefited personally, too. “I got some good tips on how to use my Twitter account!”

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