Rob Schnitz – Hyatt Hotels Corp.
As Hyatt Hotels Corp. approaches its 65th anniversary in 2022, it’s come a long way from its first motel, purchased by founder Jay Pritzker and located near the Los Angeles International Airport in 1957.
From its roots, Hyatt grew to include groundbreaking, sophisticated hotels with glass enclosed elevators and multi-story atriums. In 1972, it created one of the first toll-free reservation call centers.
Rob Schnitz, now the senior vice president, associate general counsel and chief privacy officer, joined Hyatt in 2001. Celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company, he’s seen it grow from fewer than 200 hotels in the U.S. to more than 1,000 hotels worldwide. The company now offers almost 20 lodging brands.
However, what endures most is the guiding principle of care, Schnitz says, particularly as the company and hospitality industry rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re a purpose driven company focusing on caring for people so they can be their best,” Schnitz says. “That’s real, and it’s our guiding principle. It’s what drew me to the company in the first place.”
Hyatt endured the same disruptions and difficulties the hospitality industry faced when COVID-19 arrived, and Schnitz says customer confidence and trust are crucial to successfully emerging from the pandemic. For his part, he helped develop protocols for cleaning, sanitation and safety.
“No one was excluded from how difficult the last 18 months have been. The impact in the hotel industry was unlike what we had faced before,” Schnitz says.
As hotels reopen, he’s helped create guidelines regarding masks, social distancing, occupancy limits, contact tracing and alternate uses for hotels. During the pandemic, Hyatt also surveyed its staff to understand if they felt safe at work and to pinpoint areas of concern.
“We’ve been in crisis mode and we’ve started to shift to a more proactive mode, so we can address concerns in real time,” Schnitz says.
A diverse outlook
In 2019, Schnitz was made chief privacy officer. His new responsibilities include protecting guest and employee information while working with the cybersecurity team to protect Hyatt’s systems.
“Our training is designed to draw a connection between legal requirements and caring for the guest,” Schnitz says. “Our privacy policies and practices are designed to give our guests and colleagues comfort that we take their privacy seriously and will handle their data with care.”
Schnitz has also supported diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Hyatt. The company has frequently been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as one of the best places to work. The legal team was named Chicago Legal Department of the Year in the diversity and quality of life category in 2013 by the National Law Journal.
Hyatt has multiple diversity business resource groups to help engage, recruit, mentor and retain talent and leadership—Schnitz works with Chief HR Officer Malaika Myers as a co-sponsor of the Latinos@Hyatt DBRG.
The company’s Change Starts Here initiative focuses on who it supports and buys from, too. For example, Hyatt’s supplier diversity program is open to businesses where at least 51 percent is owned and operated by minorities, women, disabled veterans and members of the LGBTQ community.
Outside work, Schnitz has been a board member with the National Domestic Violence Hotline and has taught a hospitality law course at DePaul University since 2011. The company legal department has provided pro bono services for the Woodlawn Legal Clinic in Chicago and held fundraisers for domestic violence victims.
Drawn to duty
Born in Oklahoma City, Schnitz moved to Chicago (where his parents are from) when he was young. He says his interest in a law career developed in part because teachers and relatives told him he would make a good lawyer. Schnitz earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northwestern University in 1984, then a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 1988.
Before joining Hyatt in 2001, Schnitz worked in private practice as a labor and employment lawyer, a practice area that’s always in demand no matter the economic cycle, he jokes.
Schnitz says Hyatt is a special place for him because its legal staff has worked together for so long—he’s worked with General Counsel Margaret Egan for 18 years.
“You’re a counselor, advisor and advocate,” Schnitz says. “But we always push care, that’s our purpose. I have always seen the connection between our mission as a business and the legal duty of care we apply to our guests and colleagues.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter I 2022 Edition here.
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