Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit
By Christine Lam, Head of Asia Pacific Operations & Technology March 09, 2016 09:00 AM
Citi was the lead sponsor at the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit in Hong Kong in March, bringing together leading women leaders in Asia to share, network and exchange best practices for building greater businesses, understanding new technology trends and creating value.
Asia Pacific Operations & Technology Head Christine Lam participated in the opening where she discussed the theme of “Leading with Purpose” with Nina Easton, Chair of Fortune Most Powerful Women International.
Nina: We are facing global issues like resource scarcity, inequality, education issues and the environment. Companies used to address these issues in a silo manner from their CSR department, but now more global companies are trying to make this part of their corporate culture. Can you share how Citi defines ‘Profit versus Purpose’ and how you view leadership in this area?
Christine: We are a commercial enterprise and making a profit is important, but it is not the only measure of our success. Similarly, we do not define leadership in terms of the size and scale of our business, balance sheet or customer base.
As a company, we are smaller in every measure than we were before the financial crisis. We believe that in the transition to being smaller, we have become stronger and more streamlined, and we have evolved to lead with purpose in everything we do.
It’s about going the next step and being a trusted partner by responsibly providing financial services that enable growth and economic progress.
Nina: When did Citi start thinking this way?
Christine: I think the concept of ‘Leading with Purpose’ has always been part of our DNA and culture. Citi turned 200 years old in 2012 and our long history and legacy crystalized that even more for us. We have a responsibility to ensure that we earn the respect that we have; I think our stakeholders – whether it is regulators, customers, or our business partners – expect that of us.
We find that our employees are increasingly expecting that of us as well. Our employee surveys show that our people, especially the younger generation, want to know what Citi stands for and they want us to uphold the brand and company to a higher purpose. They need to be proud of who we are, beyond what they are paid to do.
Nina: Can you share some of the efforts that you do as a company? And how it fits into your culture?
Christine: It is very much embedded in the way we operate. We have a mission statement and value proposition that we live by. It is not just something on the company intranet or on a poster; I personally see it manifesting in the way we do business – as an example, we routinely review all the deals that we finance for social and environmental issues.
We deliver purpose every day in our philanthropic efforts, including the global and country level grants through Citi Foundation. It is not just the amount of money we donate, but leveraging our expertise in the most efficient and beneficial ways.
Nina: Can you share an example of how you do that?
Christine: In Hong Kong, we have worked for years with an NGO called the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. One of our joint initiatives is the Hope Development Account Program, a pilot asset building project to help low-income individuals and their families build human, social and financial assets, develop a positive orientation toward the future and ultimately, enhance their self-sustainability.
The program gives opportunities to participants, including housewives and youths, to deposit monthly savings which are then matched at a ratio of 1:1. This approach helps them build financial assets to follow through on long-term plans and encourages a habit of regular savings. In addition, a mentor support network and training workshops on personal, financial and career development skills are provided to help enhance participants’ self-sustainability and quality of life in the long term. Citi staff actively participate as mentors for the program.
Nina: How do you measure whether these programs have an impact and are not just good PR for the bank?
Christine: We have been doing this program since 2008 and to date, 100% of the participants have succeeded in saving, 70% have found a job, 58% are starting to operate their own businesses and 30% are now off social security.
Many of the participants are appreciative because what they have received is self-confidence and a sense of know-how that is sustainable for the long term. And, they have learned from experts whom they otherwise would not have had access to. This program started in one low-income area in Hong Kong and has been extended to six additional areas due to its success.
Nina: What advice would you give to other large global companies who are trying to make these efforts part of their corporate DNA?
Christine: There is a lot of good around the world that needs to be done; each company needs to find what they can best deliver depending on the resources they have, their people and talent. My advice is to walk the talk; it needs to come from the heart and the people need to be engaged so that it becomes part of the company’s DNA.