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PERSPECTIVES

Effecting Change in the Minority Banking Sector

September 09, 2019
Harold Butler, Public Sector Group, Banking, Capital Markets and Advisory

At Citi, our commitment to ensuring supplier diversity in every market we work in leads us to establish close working relationships with a diverse set of suppliers that mirrors our client and employee population. We see this commitment as a business imperative that leads to increased efficiency and innovation, and has a positive impact on our communities. While we adhere to established industry standards to identify diverse suppliers, at times our work gives us additional opportunities to widen the access to key sectors of the financial services industry for women-owned and minority suppliers. A great example is our work with the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Financial Agent Mentor-Protégé Program, which is helping to establish a new industry standard that could pave the way for more firms in the minority-owned banking sector to perform important financial services for Treasury.

Along with a handful of large national banks, Citi has a longstanding relationship with Treasury as a Financial Agent (FA). This designation allows us to perform financial services on behalf of Treasury and its financial management arm, the Bureau of the Fiscal Service. For the past decade, Citi has been responsible for the day-to-day management of the Bureau's OTCnet application, which automates its point-of-sale/over-the-counter check-deposit process by capturing deposit-ready check images. OTCnet processes $100 billion of deposits annually.

Launched in 2018, the Financial Agent Mentor-Protégé Program pairs FAs with small banks, including minority-owned and women-owned banks, to increase the number of qualified Financial Agents. Acting on Treasury's commitment to achieving a more inclusive network of FAs, and our own commitment to increasing supplier diversity, we worked with Treasury to establish the Washington D.C.-based, black-owned Industrial Bank as the program's first newly-certified Protégé. Industrial Bank was founded in the 1930s and has since grown to become one of the largest minority-owned banks in the U.S., with assets of more than $432 million.

By jointly developing our proposal for the re-bid of the OTCnet program with Industrial Bank, the firm will be able to become a full OTCnet partner. Industrial will also participate in knowledge-sharing sessions with Citi aimed at transferring our institutional expertise and experience to enrich Industrial Bank's qualifications. That will put Industrial Bank on a path to become an FA in the future, enabling it to bid for federal contracts on its own.

Our work with the U.S. Department of the Treasury to launch the Financial Agent Mentor-Protégé Program sets a valuable precedent for other Financial Agents, which have announced their own partnerships with minority-owned and women-owned banks. As we deepen our participation in the Program and our engagement with minority-owned and women-owned banks, we'll continue to embrace supplier diversity as an important growth driver for the minority banking sector.