BFP: What is your purpose? What drives you?
I want to drive the economic empowerment of underserved communities by applying business solutions and resources, so these communities become the center of long-term sustainability.
BFP: What do you do?
I am currently Vice President for Citi Inclusive Finance providing financing opportunities, banking solutions and digital payment platforms for micro & small businesses and underserved communities in Latin America and Africa. Citi Inclusive Finance is a specialist team that works across Citi businesses globally to develop solutions that enable the bank, its clients and partners to expand access to financial services and advance economic progress in underserved market segments.
Citi’s work in this space is unique because our global footprint enables us to take on projects that require local currency, on-the-ground expertise and broad networks. We work with leading microfinance institutions, banks, corporations, governments, development agencies, non-profits, investors and service providers to develop and deliver diverse financing solutions; digital and mobile financial services; inclusive supply chain solutions; and payment technologies, among others. These activities are embedded into Citi’s core businesses and policies, rather than in a separate social responsibility unit.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
The best part of my job is working with clients to expand access to financial services and contribute to the development of great social enterprises and scalable business platforms. As we see these market-based solutions scale up, we also see more sustainable impact in communities. For example, through Citi’s partnership with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, more than one million female micro-business owners have benefitted from nearly $400 million in loans to grow their business in 24 different countries.
BFP: What has been your greatest challenge?
One of the greatest challenges is the scale and replication of successful models. There are still two billion people who are unbanked, according to The World Bank. That makes it harder for them to pay for what they need, safely save for the future or invest in their children’s education. That’s why our main focus is to build replicable programs, with strong partners from across sectors and integrating innovative and digital solutions. For example, in the Dominican Republic, Citi created Citi Mobile Collect. This makes it possible for small businesses and micro distributors to replace cash payments to their merchandise suppliers with mobile transactions, improving efficiency, security and reducing cost, whilst advancing financial inclusion.
BFP: What has been the secret of your success?
Energy, humility and persistence! Building scalable, sustainable models and commercial partnerships for change takes time and requires continued energy and humility to learn, test, improve processes and reiterate. One of the most important drivers of success is building the right team of complementary partners and to ensure all players have aligned interests and appropriate incentives for the model to succeed.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do – where do they start?
In the field of business and social impact, I think it is important to build professional expertise in a technical area with deep understanding of development issues, as well as the flexibility to adapt and understand different environments. I started my career working for a microfinance institution in India, and then joined Citi in the corporate and investment banking division. These experiences were at two different ends of the financial system spectrum, but have helped me better approach the work I do today.
BFP: What do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?
The BFP community is very important to make sure we can learn from each other, meet the right partners and disseminate the most effective methodologies and business models. The community is so special because it goes across sectors and players: for-profit/non-profit institutions, impact/mainstream investors, public/private sector, as well as corporations/governments. No one organization can achieve its full impact in isolation. The key to business fighting poverty is cooperation between institutions.