Citigroup’s Shared Value Initiative
In 2008, Citi saw a need in the Tin Shiu Wai district to support low-income females who typically had a low self-esteem and huge huddles to find a job. In view of this, Citi partnered with the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGHs) to launch the Hope Development Accounts (HDA), a pilot project in Hong Kong to help these individuals (and later extended to family-based) build personal, social and financial assets, develop a positive orientation toward the future, and ultimately enhance their self-sustainability.
The charity accounts set up through Citi allow participants, including housewives and youths, to deposit monthly savings of between HK$200 and HK$500, which are then matched at a ratio of 1:1 by the Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged and another charitable foundation, over a period of two years. This approach helps participants build financial assets to follow through on long-term plans and encourages a habit of regular savings. Besides, a mentor support network and training workshops on personal, financial and career development skills are provided by the programme to help enhance participants’ self-sustainability and quality of life in the long term. Citi also mobilised its staff to understand the needs of the participants by working with them as mentors.
Shared Value for Business and Society
The HDA programme was launched with a mission to help alleviate the poverty level and improve the quality of life amongst low-income families in Hong Kong. The programme in Tin Shui Wai has successfully increased the employment rate by 50% among the participants. Nearly 100% of the participants indicated that they have developed a stable saving habit after joining the programme. While the programme started from Tin Shui Wai, it has since expanded to more low-income families in need in other districts including Tuen Mun, Ap Lei Chau, Shatin, Tai Kok Tsui, Sham Shui Po and Yuen Long, benefiting over 200 families. To date, over 600 individuals have benefited from the programme with results such as 100% of the participants developing a savings habit, 70% finding employment (21% in full time and 49% in part time), 28% no longer requiring/receiving less Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) and 58% starting to operate their own businesses.
HDA's successful model was recognised by the HK Council of Social Service (HKCSS) with the Outstanding Partnership Project Award in 2011 and by the Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong with the Financial Education Awards 2013 with Excellence in Family Financial Planning. The programme also served as a good model for HKSAR Government’s Child Development Fund.
Though the target beneficiary is limited per intake due to the heavy commitment financially and in terms of manpower running the project, it is one of the key initiatives for Citi in Hong Kong which demonstrates a strong Shared Value between the business sector and the community sector – that Citi and the TWGHs both see a need in poverty alleviation in this special group of people, and how positive economic value and community progress would be realised by “teaching them how to fish instead of feeding them.”
Moreover, the programme is also part of Citi’s staff engagement programme which encourages staff members to participate in community works. So far, more than 100 Citi executives join the programme as volunteers, offering training, experience sharing and support to the participating families. With the success of the HDA programme, in 2011 the Citi Foundation also funded a research to study the feasibility of setting up a long-term microfinance programme in Hong Kong.