The Wall Street Journal
By Victoria McGrane
September 23, 2010
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Citigroup (C) is working to expand access to financial services in traditionally underserved communities, the company's chief executive said Thursday after receiving an award for its philanthropic work.
"In the wake of the [financial] crisis, the financial services industry has reevaluated the way we do business and the values that drive us," Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit said in prepared remarks. "At Citi, creating financial opportunity for everyone is at the core of our mission. We are committed to putting the full force of our people and resources to work to drive financial inclusion."
The award Pandit accepted Thursday isn't for writing a check to a charitable cause, but rather for several programs developed by Citigroup that seek to expand access to its financial services and products, as well as increase financial literacy.
Pandit described one of the company's efforts, the Communities at Work Fund, which at $200 million is one of the largest efforts to connect private capital with underserved communities, he said. The sustainable fund provides capital to businesses, charter schools and other community organizations in underserved areas -- and ultimately will be profitable, Pandit said.
In an interview after the speech, Pandit said technological changes and gained expertise in the field has led to a shift toward away from just giving money and toward the creation of programs that can fund themselves and thus reach a larger scale of people.
"The change that's happening, and the approach we're taking, is not only about philanthropy but it's about creating business models that are sustainable," he said.
Pandit insisted that Citi wasn't pursuing these efforts for "public adulation or recognition." And while he hopes that some people who participate in these programs become mainstream customers, the goal is not to create more customers for Citi, he said.
"If we do these things correctly everybody will prosper and do better, how is that bad for business ultimately?" said Pandit.
The Corporation for Enterprise Development gave Citigroup its "Assets and Opportunity Award" for "advancing the field of asset-building in the United States, and increasing low-income household usage of financial products and services" that help these Americans move up the economic ladder, the group said.
-By Victoria McGrane, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9267; email@example.com.