Recently, Cynthia Steele, EMpower’s President & CEO, spoke with Itay Tuchman, Global Head of Foreign Exchange at Citi. They had a wide-ranging discussion about the pandemic, workplace diversity, our increasingly digital world, and Citi’s “e for education” campaign, which EMpower is a beneficiary of.
How has COVID influenced your business?
For us, there were a lot of stages of the last more-than-18 months. Firstly, it’s redoubled the importance of our people. We had story after story of people who had challenges, and we stepped up to ensure our colleagues were fully supported in every way.
I think if you would have asked me before the pandemic whether or not we could pull off running the biggest foreign exchange bank in the world with almost everybody out of the office—and I want to say at some point, it was literally almost everybody—we would have all thought that was impossible. But it inspired us that it is possible to do these kinds of things. And in a way, the electronification of our business—which is a key driver of our “e for education” campaign—was one of the most important things we had. Our clients could still interact with foreign exchange digitally.
We’re thinking about the future: First, the beliefs of our people have changed about what they want their work experience to be. Workplace flexibility, which was a topic we were discussing before the pandemic—whether it was working parents, or people who were caring for others—has become critically important. There’s a new way of working, and network experiences can be more flexible. You’ve seen Jane Fraser, our CEO, be quite public and vocal, and be a leader on what that means for our people and our staff.
The second thing is our view of how to be resilient. The idea of a decentralized workforce, and the ability to be at home as a source of resiliency and strength, is something that we think about. All of these things rest on this concept of being able to be digital and to transact electronically.
You alluded to this, but what changes do you think are here to stay?
These things are often very hard to predict. For example, a lot of people and some of our staff decided to leave urban environments and move further out. There are a lot of people running a global business like we do across 80 countries who rely on a lot of travel to see our clients and to connect directly. I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to do some of that. My bet is that a lot of us, like me, who used to live on planes are going to live on planes less. For my family, that’s been a great thing! They’ve seen a lot more of me. I think we all recognise the importance of our families and our communities in our professional lives. I think this concept of being yourself in the workplace really changed because we got to peer into each other’s lives through Zoom meetings: kids, spouses, parents, school disruptions, home deliveries – the lot! It was actually a wonderful benefit, to see the authenticity that everybody put into their workplace. I don’t think that’s going to change post-pandemic. People are much more comfortable being themselves in the workplace, whether they’re in the office or working from home.
Now, those of us who are parents (and I’m a parent), we understood the disruption to education in a way which made us realise how fortunate we are. Not everybody had the tools that we have for our kids: the laptops, the iPads, the phones, the connectivity, the broadband, the technology that really was
required. We’ve spent a lot of time talking with our e for education partners about that. The lived experience that a lot of parents had around educational disruption really helps us sustain the momentum for education, and to see how important it is to empower people all over the world that aren’t as fortunate as we are.
Citi’s e for education campaign has been such a game-changer for EMpower. What has it meant to you and Citi?
It’s not just about the funding. We’re thrilled to support at the scale that we do, approaching $10 million per annum. But for our people, our employees and our clients, it’s so far beyond that. Along with our nonprofit partners, including EMpower, we bring our colleagues and clients along on the journey to support the education of young people. First of all, e for education is the highlight of our year. We look forward to Q3 when we launch the annual campaign, and to participating in the direct engagement with young people through organisations all over the world. Our model is to be “all in” across our markets franchise. That makes a really important statement.
I think as the pandemic starts to ease, we’ll be able to do more direct engagement. We love seeing young people, we love seeing the impact in action. We talk a lot in dollar terms about what we do. But I’m starting to tell people: we’ve helped three quarters of a million kids so far, three quarters of a million. In the next few years, I’m excited to get to 1 million kids, supported by the people in Citi Markets. To see the scale of that first-hand is tremendous. Two young people supported by our nonprofit partners are now part of our graduate programme. I mean, what an unbelievable endorsement.
That is so fantastic, I’m really happy to hear that. You mentioned Jane Fraser, Citi’s relatively new CEO, earlier. She’s already been so powerful. What do you think it signals having the first woman at the helm of such an important institution?
First, I’ll say it’s a long overdue signal. We should celebrate. But we should also say that this is a long time coming. To have Jane running one of the largest financial organisations in the world, I’m proud that Citi is the flag bearer for breaking that ceiling. Additionally, her management team is very diverse. We have to continue to change the narrative around an industry like banking, empowering people of all diverse backgrounds.
We talk a lot in our teams about role models and archetypes, and driving diversity. There’s this constant phrase you hear, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” We’ve achieved balance at the graduate level, but driving long-term career progression requires access to and sponsorship by senior role models. From a gender diversity perspective, they can say, “Oh, look, Jane got it. She made it all the way. I can make it. Anyone can make it.” This is such a powerful message.
We have to do more to bring in diverse people at all layers of the organisation. Everybody knows diverse teams win.
An unparalleled global footprint is one of the most wonderful parts of being at Citi and gives us the opportunity to engage with diverse cultures around the world. It’s about applying that perspective to all forms of diversity: whether it’s gender, race, orientation in the LGBTQ+ community, thought and neuro diversity, and people with physical challenges.
At Citi, you see the power, the connectivity between the people, and the ability to do things better. We’ve managed to move the needle a lot at Citi, but we’re by no means where we want to be. This is something that we will continue to work towards.
I love the intention and the energy behind what you’re saying. If there’s anything else that you want to say that hasn’t come up, this is your moment.
The partnership with EMpower and other organisations is so meaningful and powerful for us. We couldn’t do it without you. It’s not just us doing something for three quarters of a million young people. It’s also our partners opening our eyes and inspiring us through our continued engagement. So the thing I actually want to say is thank you for years of partnershipView All News
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