Mitch De Silva

Citibank T&T’s country officer, Mitch De Silva.

YOUNG people are particularly vulnerable to the disruptions caused by Covid-19 and it’s for this reason Citi Foundation has partnered with Trust for the Americas, and the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) to launch an innovation lab for young people.

Called DIA Youth Innovation Lab, the initiative is meant to impact 300 young people in Trinidad and Tobago providing state-of-the-art innovation and technology training.

The Trinidad and Tobago DIA (Democratising Innovation in the Americas) Lab, launched its first DIA Urban Lab for Youth Innovation in Jamaica in 2016 and over the next four years, 1,350 youth “received training and access to state-of-the-art technology to solve challenges in their communities”.

In an interview with Express Business last week, Citibank T&T’s country officer, Mitch De Silva said through its foundation the bank partnered with Trust for the Americas and CARIRI to prepare young people with the career-readiness tools and opportunities needed to thrive in today’s economy.

“We believe this will help them build an entrepreneurial mindset and acquire leadership skills which will ultimately benefit their families, communities and the country,” De Silva said.

The programme, he said, was launched in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this month.

He noted that with Covid-19 still being present, the programme is being held virtually and once things start to normalise, the 300 young persons would be able to use the lab.

According to De Silva, Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world and the foundations also partners with local organisations to promote and develop specific programmes in each market.

“Since its launch, Citi Foundation has invested more than $230 million globally in workforce preparation. Through partnerships with governments, civil society, and the private sector, we have been part of a movement that not only prepares youth with the skills they need for employment, but also empowers them to further develop their ideas, launch their own businesses, and become employment generators of their own.”

De Silva said that Citi Foundation T&T has partnered with Glasswing, a non-profit organisation in Trinidad since 2018, with a programme that aims to equip young men and women with core life skills, leadership competencies, and financial and entrepreneurial capabilities with a social responsibility focus.

“In addition to these components, the programme integrates two cross-cutting elements to address gender inequality and the socio-emotional needs of participants.

It better prepares them for school-to-work transitions, enter the formal workforce, or generate their own income through entrepreneurial activities. Also a peer network is made up of participants, to increase their access to social support and safety,’’ he said.

De Silva took the opportunity to highlight Citibank’s work during the pandemic and said the bank supported people affected by Covid through joint efforts with United Way and local partners.

“On the sidelines of this emergency, Citi and the Citi Foundation invested more than $100 million to support community assistance and economic recovery efforts.

Also, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in partnership with its non-profit partner, USA for IOM, and Citi T&T, distributed 160 electronic tablets to primary schools and other organisations. We have been helping communities tirelessly during these economic hardships,” he explained.

Citibank’s operations

Citibank is located at 12 Queen’s Park East, Port of Spain and was established in 1965.

De Silva said the bank has provided financial solutions to corporations, financial institutions, public sector companies and governments for over 50 years.

He said: “Citi provides strategic and financial advisory including mergers and acquisitions, financial restructurings, loans, syndicated loans, foreign exchange, cash management and trade solutions. Since 1965, Citi has been a key player in the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s financial industry, introducing new solutions and services.”

Citibank (Trinidad & Tobago) Limited and Citicorp Merchant Bank Limited are locally incorporated, and run by local Boards of Directors. The bank is fully owned by its ultimate parent, Citigroup.

Digital

De Silva said with Covid-19 being the driving force of digital transformation across the world, the bank now has a web-based platform called CitiDirect which streamlines local banking activities by giving authorised users at every level of their organisation direct access to corporate accounts via an easy-to-use Web interface.

He noted that the real-time information delivered through the CitiDirect platform is combined with an ever-expanding array of financial services, including:

• Payments and Reporting

• WorldLink Multicurrency Transaction Services and WorldLink Onsite Cheques

• Trade

Corporate lending

When asked how loans are given to their clients, the country officer said the bank and its affiliates offer a variety of short- medium- and long-term financing solutions available in local and foreign currency.

“We have a long record of working with top local corporations, multi-national corporations, financial institutions, governments and their agencies to provide timely, customised solutions to service their needs,” he said.

The loan structures typically fall into the following categories:

• Working capital and short-term financing

• Term loans and structured financing

• Capital markets.

Foreign exchange

Citi Trinidad is one of the largest dealers in the local FX market De Silva said, with a significant share of all volumes traded.

“We provide two-way quotations on a wide variety of currency pairs, including all G10 and an array of secondary and exotic currencies, and pride ourselves on satisfying our client needs cost-effectively. Citi boasts a world-class online trading platform, provided free of charge for our clients, with up-to-the-minute pricing and relevant live commodity and currency news from across the globe.”

Questioned on whether the bank has received new clients, as foreign exchange continues to be a dire problem, De Silva said this was not the case and that the bank has remained with its established pool of clients who access their foreign exchange, which is not limited like the commercial banks.

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