One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is: “What keeps you up at night?” I have a short list of items I put into this category, some specific to Citi and others that extend beyond our firm. The widening income gap in the U.S. and globally has ranked high on that list for many years, and has risen even higher in recent years as we see new consequences of this fundamental division play out all around us.
One profound implication of the widening income divide is evident in our polarized politics. In so many places around the world, political discourse — though never all that civil in tone — has devolved into little more than a series of “I’m right and you’re wrong” shouting matches. Compromise is seen as a sign of weakness, or worse, disloyalty. Not surprisingly, talking over and past each other hasn’t led to much effective action being taken to address the root challenges we face as a society.
I worry greatly about this dynamic, and believe there is an opportunity for Citi and others in the private sector to lead a more constructive dialogue and work toward solutions. With that in mind, we consistently assess Citi’s role in response to three questions:
What are we doing to help create inclusive and resilient communities?
How can we use our voice to help drive dialogue toward solutions?
Is Citi walking the talk — are we doing the right things within our own firm?
The short answer to all three of these questions continues to be the same: that we can and should do more. Our mission of enabling growth and economic progress will never be complete, but year after year, my colleagues and our firm keep pushing ourselves in the right direction. Internally, we have taken steps to mirror many of the changes we need to make as a society.
In this report, you will find no shortage of big challenges — local, national, regional and global — described in daunting detail. You will also find specific examples of the creative solutions my Citi colleagues are continuously conceiving with our clients and communities to address them. Those challenges range from climate change, to the urgent need for exponentially more infrastructure investment globally, to an affordable housing crisis in the U.S. that has widened even further a gap that disproportionately affects low-income people and families and communities of color. That gap is a primary contributor to the economic inequality I cited above that pervades our society and our politics.
At Citi, we have learned that there are times when we need to take a stand when our values and mission are on the line. We were the first bank to announce a Commercial Firearms Policy in the U.S. that promotes responsible business practices at the point of sale.
We were the first firm to disclose our unadjusted pay gaps between women and men globally, and between minorities and non-minorities in the U.S.
We have also taken the UN Sustainable Development Goals as guideposts and inspirations to continue to do more — as much as we can. We believe we have a role to play across all 17 goals, but can drive the greatest impact on seven: Gender Equality; Affordable and Clean Energy; Decent Work and Economic Growth; Industry Innovation and Infrastructure; Sustainable Cities and Communities; Climate Action and last but not least, Partnerships for the Goals.
The last goal, #17 related to partnerships, is at the heart of everything we do. We know no one person, company, nation, or community can do enough alone. That’s why, when we bring others to the table to work with us and start a dialogue, we start to achieve an important goal of our own: leadership.
Michael L. Corbat
Chief Executive Officer