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Ventanilla de Asesoria Financiera: Building more financially inclusive cities for Mexican Immigrants
By Ambassador Sandra Fuentes-Berain, Consul General of Mexico in New York March 28, 2016 02:00 PM
Maria De Los Angeles Baez Rivera, a Mexican immigrant living in Queens, was in a very difficult place in October of 2014. Facing extreme financial hardship, she did not have a permanent home, and was constantly moving from place to place. She did not have a bank account, could not afford a mobile phone, and lacked the basic resources and stability necessary to obtain full-time employment.
There are roughly 320,000 Mexican immigrants in New York City—a community roughly the size of Pittsburgh—many of whom are struggling with similar situations as Maria. In order to better understand the financial needs of this community, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) and Citi Community Development published the Immigrant Financial Services Study in April 2013. The study revealed that more than half of Mexican immigrants in New York City do not have a bank account because of perceived or structural obstacles to engaging with financial institutions—obstacles which are often rooted in language, cultural or informational barriers to trust.
Mexican immigrants, like immigrants from many other countries, often have limited experiences with financial institutions in their new home. They worry about hidden fees, the security of their deposits or that authorities might take away their money. They are unfamiliar with tax benefits and are at times skeptical of programs that offer help.
By Pramit Jhaveri, Citi Country Officer, India March 23, 2016 09:30 AM
In January, Citi’s Club House Road facility in Chennai, India, became the very first Citi Realty Services (CRS) managed location globally to install solar photovoltaic panels. These clean energy generating units were installed on the rooftop of Citi’s office and are expected to generate a minimum of 60,000 kWh annually, generating around 3 percent of the building’s annual electricity consumption as well as avoiding over 55 tons of carbon dioxide being released per year - a significant contribution towards conservation.
By Kristen Scheyder, Senior Program Officer, Citi Foundation, and Steven Bosacker, Director of Public Sector Innovation, Living Cities March 17, 2016 11:45 AM
They want to fortify, scale, and sustain. From seawalls to stairs, streetlights to stormwater, Pittsburgh, Saint Paul, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. are setting ambitious targets as they join the City Accelerator’s Infrastructure Finance cohort.
In December 2015, the Citi Foundation and Living Cities invited approximately 40 of the nation’s largest cities for an opportunity to explore a new set of financing options to help address the funding gaps for high priority capital projects. Chiefs of staff and senior policy advisors to mayors, who form the Project on Municipal Innovation, submitted data-rich presentations in their applications to the City Accelerator. The desire for cities to build, maintain, and repair infrastructure that protects the future and the past was palpable and the need to fund projects differently is urgent.
Acknowledging their budget constraints, limited means of additional revenue creation, and other challenges, the four cities selected for the Infrastructure Finance cohort are representative of cities throughout the country. Municipal leaders are searching for immediate and multi-generational strategies -- that is, ways the significant investment of previous centuries can be preserved and upgraded to make their cities thriving 21st century urban markets. Most of all, local governmental leaders want to increase equity by managing public assets and dollars more effectively so that low-income residents are beneficiaries of the built environment.
By Andrea Jung, President and CEO, Grameen America March 11, 2016 02:45 PM
Left to Right: Andrea Jung, President and CEO; Grameen America, Bob Annibale, Citi Community Development; and Professor Muhammad Yunus, Chairman & Founder of Grameen Bank and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize
Eight years ago, Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus had a vision to bring his award-winning micro-lending model to the United States. As the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, Professor Yunus was internationally acclaimed for demonstrating that lending small amounts of money to underserved women would provide them with the economic opportunity they needed to start businesses and escape the grips of poverty.
To get the program off the ground in the U.S., Grameen America approached Citi as a thought partner, tapping into the firm’s expertise and international experience in microfinance. In 2008, with Citi’s support, Grameen America opened its first branch in Jackson Heights, Queens.
Grameen America alleviates poverty for low-income women by providing them with small-dollar loans to support the creation of micro-enterprises, working in groups of five. For our members – more than 90% of whom are self-employed minorities living in underserved neighborhoods – a critical element of building and safeguarding capital is access to high-quality banking products and services. In addition to receiving support from Citi for our operations, we work closely with the bank to provide our members with savings accounts for which fees are waived.
By Ben Hecht, President and CEO, Living Cities and Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation and Director of Corporate Citizenship, Citi February 17, 2016 02:00 PM
The unfolding water contamination issue in Flint, Michigan, which led to the declaration of a federal emergency, is the latest example of the challenges that many of our nation’s cities face when it comes to the deterioration of aging infrastructure. From transportation and stormwater to broadband and energy efficiency, cities are juggling limited resources to build and maintain vital capital assets to meet even the most basic needs of residents, especially in low-income communities. It is estimated that the growing demand for infrastructure improvements totals more than $60 trillion globally. Increasingly, cities and states are being required to cover these costs on their own, requiring enormous coordination and new financing mechanisms to address this large and growing funding gap.
This redirection of funds can take a toll on a city’s most vulnerable populations, diverting scarce resources from other critical services. Cities must develop a capacity to smartly resource their infrastructure priorities, so they can better equip themselves to tackle issues like poverty, education and job creation, and have more funding at their disposal to do so.
In the recently released 2015 Menino Survey of Mayors, local leaders noted that they are receiving reduced levels of funding and support at the federal level, and are as a result being increasingly forced to take this daunting challenge into their own hands. That’s why Living Cities and the Citi Foundation have designed the third cohort of City Accelerator—an initiative that’s helping 11 select U.S. cities foster innovation and collaboration between urban leaders—to test, innovate and codify new ways of building, repairing and maintaining much needed infrastructure.
By David Chubak, Head of Productivity, Citi December 18, 2015 11:30 AM
The FinTech Transformation
In the past year, I have had the privilege to work closely with leaders across Citi to introduce new ways of enabling progress by accelerating innovation that influences the way we work, live, bank, and serve our clients and communities. I traveled across multiple regions with Citi business heads, learning from external innovators, and collaborating with a growing FinTech population around how we can deliver a more “remarkable” client and employee experience. It has been inspiring to meet thought leaders across industries to discuss the future of banking and how we at Citi can bring the benefits of the FinTech transformation to our global network – and how we manage our internal processes. After all, a remarkable client experience begins at home, with our employees.
By Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation and Director of Corporate Citizenship, Citi December 10, 2015 03:15 PM
I consider myself fortunate to do what I do: crafting and executing the Citi Foundation’s philanthropic strategy to support the economic needs of low-income communities. I get to look out and see how we can help make our cities better and more inclusive. This requires having a clear view of the economic and societal problems we face and, equally as important, an understanding of the psychological toll those problems have on families and communities.
In both professional and personal conversations, I’ve noticed that many parents are no longer confident in a brighter future for their children. That’s not just my observation. In a recent NBC News online poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans said that today's children in the United States will grow up to be worse off than they are.
How can that be, when the economy is showing concrete signs of rebounding? What’s so different today verses prior economic downturns that our belief in the American dream, once unwavering, is at risk?
By Jane Abramovich, Head of the Global Access to Finance Practice Group, TechnoServe December 07, 2015 10:00 AM
As part of our work to engage progress makers, this year Citi is partnering with Know Your Value, a program with NBCUniversal News Group and Mika Brzezinski, to explore how female aspiring leaders can get their worth at work and create the lives they want. Jane Abramovich, head of the global Access to Finance Practice Group at TechnoServe, a nonprofit organization and Citi Foundation partner that develops business solutions to poverty by linking hardworking people around the world to relevant information, capital and markets was part of Citi’s breakout session Making Your Ideas Real. Jane manages strategic relationships with financial service partners, provides technical expertise to program design and implementation teams, and develops and shares best practices, tools and innovations around lasting financial solutions in the developing world. Below she answers a few questions.
1. Tell us about a "Know Your Value" moment in your career?
After working in New York for a large banking institution, I decided to relocate to take on an exciting new challenge in a key emerging market country. I joined and was soon leading a growing capital markets team in a market which, while it had great potential for new ventures and rapid growth, lacked transparency and trust between foreign investors looking to enter the market and local business partners seeking to identify alternative sources of capital.
Coming from New York, I was initially seen as an outsider, despite predominantly representing the interests of local clients. During one transaction, we were several weeks into the due diligence process for an acquisition of a large retail center by a European investor and were finishing up a long site visit. While both sides seemed eager to close on the sale, the initial gap in expectations was quite wide, largely due to lack of trust and understanding of the other’s position. Towards the end of the visit, and after numerous conversations both individually and together with each party, I happened to find myself walking between the investing partner and the business owner. Virtually at the same time, each leaned over and in different languages, practically verbatim whispered the same sentence to me, “We really appreciate you looking at this from our perspective, thanks for defending our position.”
I can vividly recall that ‘know your value’ moment, appreciating the work that went into bringing the two parties together and bridging both the cultural and technical gaps in their negotiating postures, in addition to developing their long-term working relationship. It reinforced my desire to play a similar role in even more frontier markets, building linkages between financial partners and entrepreneurs who face even bigger challenges accessing capital. Moments such as these led me to my current role at TechnoServe, working to expand our emerging financial advisory practice in some of the poorest countries in the world.
By Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation and Director of Corporate Citizenship, Citi December 02, 2015 01:00 PM
Citi has established combatting climate change as the top priority in our Sustainable Progress strategy, launched in February of this year. Our signature effort to combat climate change is our $100 Billion Environmental Finance goal, a goal to lend, invest and facilitate $100 billion over 10 years toward climate and environmental solutions, and we’re making significant progress towards that goal. In addition to our core business activities, we are also focused on the greening of our own operations. We have set science-based environmental footprint goals to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 35% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050 and to have 33% of our real estate portfolio to be LEED green building certified by 2020.
By Halé Behzadi, Managing Director, Global Market Manager, Western Region, Citi Private Bank & James Alva, Southern California Market Manager, Citi Community Development & Lisa Deloney, Managing Director, Market President, Southern California December 02, 2015 12:00 PM
Citi’s partnership with Los Angeles spans more than 100 years, starting in 1900 with our support of California’s railway expansion. In the 1920s we opened our first branch in Los Angeles to help serve the city’s rapidly growing population and expanding economy. As we launch City Profiles, dedicated to highlighting Citi’s history in some of our key U.S. markets, we speak with three Los Angeles-based Citi leaders to get their perspectives on our longstanding presence in their home city.
What is your favorite milestone from Citi’s history in Los Angeles and how do we continue to enable progress in the city today?
Halé: Citi has a long history of enhancing the infrastructure of L.A., from financing the expansion of the state railroad network dating back to the early 1900s, to facilitating the development of the Port of Los Angeles (the busiest in the US!) and construction and expansion of the airport (LAX). These examples demonstrate our commitment to the city’s explosive growth over the course of many years, and our ability to leverage our connected capabilities to enable the continued success and growth of California’s largest city.
Lisa: Within the community, we’re committed to not just making a difference, but to making a difference through changing behaviors. Recently, through our colleagues at Citi Inclusive Finance, we’ve been working to provide a college financial preparedness program in partnership with the Youth Policy Institute. Not only does this program help needy students save for college, it also helps families get tax refunds, which then go into the savings program. Early data shows that participants’ savings rate is significantly higher than that of median income level families, so while we’re helping people save money – we’re also helping change a behavior, which is really our ultimate goal.
James: Citi is quickly approaching the 100-year anniversary of our presence in L.A. and over that time, we’ve built countless strong and lasting relationships – not least with the City of Los Angeles. LA has always been a place to experiment with new ideas and develop bold solutions. So in 2014, Citi Community Development proudly supported the City of Los Angeles and the Youth Policy Institute in their successful application to become one of only five Promise Zones, a new Federal-led initiative that leverages government resources to create jobs, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities and reduce violent crime. LA was successful in its bid and Citi Community Development is working with the city’s leading stakeholders to ensure LA’s Promise Zone generates real opportunities for some of the city’s poorest residents.