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Community Developments Investments (May 2018)

Citibank: Partnering With Community Banks to Expand Financial Access

OCC
Natalie Abatemarco, Managing Director of Citi Community Development, and Guillermo Diaz-Rousselot, President of Continental National Bank, discuss their banks’ ATM partnership.

Janet Fix, Analyst to the Deputy Comptroller for Community Affairs, OCC

When the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) encouraged minority depository institutions (MDI) in 2016 to form collaborations with larger banks, Guillermo Diaz-Rousselot was initially as skeptical as anyone would be if asked to team up with a competitor.

“Yeah, right,” thought Mr. Diaz-Rousselot, President and Chief Executive Officer of Continental National Bank, an MDI in Miami. As a trustee for Miami’s Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, he said, “I thought collaboration was something only musicians did.”

A phone call from Citibank, however, soon gave Mr. Diaz-Rousselot reason to be more optimistic. Continental’s customers were invited to use—without paying out-of-network fees—any of Citibank’s 2,400 branch automated teller machines (ATM), including those in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., cities where Citibank has 600 retail branches.

What did Citibank request in return? “They did not request anything,” said Mr. Diaz-Rousselot. “At first, I did not take them seriously, but it was true and it turned out to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”

For Citibank, it was a serious strategic move that led to positive relationships with seven other MDIs, four community banks, and 11 credit unions across the nation that are initial partners in Citibank’s Citi ATM Community Network, a pilot program created in July 2016.

“At Citi, we share the same goal as minority-owned banks and credit unions, which is to provide wide access to safe and affordable financial products and services, especially in low-income communities and communities of color,” said Bob Annibale, Global Director of Citi Community Development and Inclusive Finance. “The Citi ATM Community Network enables us to collaborate in a new way by expanding access and convenience for the customers of these partner institutions, while at the same time strengthening local trusted credit unions and minority-owned banks.”

Expanding financial access and inclusion for community bank customers is a key part of Citi’s corporate strategy, said Mr. Annibale, who leads Citi’s partnerships with global, national, and local organizations on these efforts to aid financially underserved individuals, families, and communities.

Together, the MDIs and other institutions in the Citi ATM Community Network serve more than 400,000 customers, many of whom live in low- to moderate-income and majority-minority neighborhoods considered to be underserved by large financial institutions. The typical MDI customer has a relationship with his or her community bank, which may have only a handful of ATMs locally.

OCC
Spanish language marketing in Continental Bank’s lobby in Miami is presented by, from left, Sonia Canessa-Gonzalez, CFO of Continental National Bank; Natalie Abatemarco of Citibank; and Natalia Arana, Marketing Director of Continental National Bank.

In 2016, Citibank executives learned the OCC was encouraging Citibank and other OCC-supervised banks to collaborate with MDIs. At the same time, Citibank was building off the creation of both the Access Account, in 2014, and its pioneering collaborations to develop savings accounts for schoolchildren in the city and county of San Francisco and the low-income immigrant clients of Grameen America. In addition, Citibank was looking to further expand its financial inclusion efforts by exploring ways to expand ATM access to small community financial institutions. Soon after, Citibank began its ATM pilot program and contacted Mr. Diaz-Rousselot to invite Continental to join the Citi ATM Community Network.

By participating in the network, banks enable their customers to avoid paying out-of-network ATM fees that otherwise could total nearly $5 per transaction. Typically, bank customers pay both an ATM fee charged by the out-of-network bank that owns the ATM and a second fee that their own bank charges for using an ATM owned by another bank. In 2017, out-of-network ATM fees in the United States hit a record high of $4.69 per transaction, up 2.6 percent from the previous year, Mr. Annibale said. “People who are juggling limited cash flows and withdrawing just $40 at a time are paying a significant potential cost to get access to their money,” he said.

The Citi ATM Community Network does not boost Citi’s bottom line or allow Citi to sell its products to its bank partners’ customers, Mr. Annibale said. Proof of this, he said, is in the data Citi has collected since the pilot began. “Most of these customers are just using our ATMs, not the rest of the bank,” Mr. Annibale said.

The Citi ATM Community Network benefits the customers of Continental National Bank of Miami and seven other MDIs:

  • American Plus Bank, California
  • Broadway Federal Bank, California
  • City National Bank, New Jersey
  • Executive National Bank, Florida
  • Mission National Bank, California
  • National Bank of Malvern, Pennsylvania
  • Pacific Global Bank, Illinois

In addition, four community banks are participating in the Citi ATM Community Network: City First Bank of DC, Spring Bank in New York City, Neighborhood National Bank in San Diego, Calif., and Quontic Bank in New York City. The Citi ATM Community Network recognizes the way bank customers work and live. “These partnerships expand ATM access to people who have relationships with the local banks that, perhaps, they feel best about,” Mr. Annibale said. “They also leverage Citi’s branch network and expand our footprint in the local communities of our partners.”

In 2018, the Citi ATM Community Network continues as a pilot, and Citibank will, at its discretion, add new partners while maintaining control over the impact of the added volume on its retail branch network, according to Mr. Annibale.

“We know that people who use our 399 Park Avenue ATM don’t live a few blocks away from 399 Park Avenue,” Mr. Annibale said. “They come from all over New York, from all over the country, and around the world. They live elsewhere but may work in Manhattan, or they pass by as taxi drivers, delivery men, cleaners, office workers, civil servants, and pedestrians.”

While Citi may not quickly expand its ATM network, it does hope that other OCC-supervised banks will see what it has done and follow its lead by providing access to their ATMs at no charge to other community banks.

“There are many other [large banks] which could do the same, and that would be amazing,” Mr. Annibale said. “We could continue, almost exponentially, to expand financial access.”

Meanwhile, Continental Bank and its customers are enjoying the benefits of Continental’s relationship with Citibank, including greater brand awareness and free access to their cash at any Citibank ATM.

Mr. Diaz-Rousselot said the Citi ATM Community Network has helped Continental to stand out in a crowded South Florida banking market where 60 community banks compete for the same customers and market share. “Our partnership is a big plus, at the board level, with our officers, our customers … and in terms of branding and public relations,” Mr. Diaz-Rousselot said. Results, he said, have “been quite positive.”

His customers increased their ATM usage by 10 percent, with 30 percent using ATMs to check balances before making withdrawals. He said 67 percent of customers are using the network to withdraw funds.

In addition, Mr. Diaz-Rousselot has overcome his initial concerns that Citibank might try to entice his customers away or cross-sell Citibank products to them. Citibank has not done this, Mr. Diaz-Rousselot said. Most importantly, Mr. Diaz-Rousselot is pleased because his customers are happy and saving money.

“We know 91.3 percent of our customers are aware of our alliance with Citibank and 64 percent have used a Citibank ATM at no cost,” Mr. Diaz-Rousselot said. “It’s been fantastic for us.”

For more information, contact Patricia Tuma, Vice President for Corporate Communications at Citibank, at patricia.tuma@citi.com.