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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Local Units of Banks Provide Access to Funding, Education

BEST STUDENT LOAN PROGRAMS Wells Fargo Leave it to a bank to make even its charitable giving work hard. Wells Fargo’s many programs to further financial literacy and education for both high school and college students, often include a unique twist. Take the bank’s five-year, $1 million endowment fund to California State University, Northridge that created the Wells Fargo Center for Small Business. Students involved in the program then go out to the community helping small businesses with their marketing, finance and other endeavors. Facility: Wells Fargo has a bank branch at CSUN. The bank’s Comadre Network, which operates in Pacoima, works by training local community leaders, who can then go out and offer financial literacy classes at churches and other non-profit centers. Wells originates $3.7 billion a year in federal and alternative student loans and manages more than $13 billion in outstanding student loans. But financing a student’s education is not the same as educating students financially. “Right when we opened, we realized a lot of our customers are going to be 18-, 19-, 20-year olds where it’s the first time they are opening a bank account,” said Sarkis Tarkanian, branch manager at the California State University, Northridge store, the first bank to locate on the school’s campus. “We spend a great deal of time educating our customers.” The opening of Wells’ branch on the CSUN campus brought a lot of one-on-one training to students, and now the impromptu financial literacy classes have evolved into more formal efforts. Among them, Wells runs as part of a life skills institute, classes where students can learn about money, credit and other financial matters, sometimes with special guest speakers such as noted personal finance expert Suze Orman. Bank officials say the efforts at grassroots levels help to create the kinds of long term relationships they seek. “Particularly in our low and moderate income areas, we do a lot of financial literacy training,” said David Guzman, district manager for the North Valley community bank. “At the end of the day we feel it’s part of sustaining long term relationships.” Wells decentralizes its programs, allowing store managers and other regional personnel to select the recipients of its philanthropic efforts, and the result has been significant giving to Valley-area schools including Agoura High School, Canyon High School, Chatsworth High School, El Camino Real High School and numerous others. The Community Partners program this year gave $1,000 grants to 11 Valley schools and educational establishments. In addition Wells Fargo makes available scholarships to the children of its own team members. Shelly Garcia Citigroup Global financial giant Citigroup could well be the poster child for thinking locally when it comes to the support and funding it makes available to many different educational programs. The Citigroup of companies offers grant funding, sponsorship dollars and volunteers to help small businesses and families to manage their assets and build their nest eggs and it participates in mentoring programs to encourage teachers in the Northeast Valley among other locales. Since the early 2000s, the Citigroup Foundation has provided grant funding to help the Valley Economic Development Center to offer small business education and entrepreneurial development programs. The most recent was a $50,000 multi-year grant. Citibank has also focused considerable attention on the Northeast San Fernando Valley providing sponsorship dollars to El Nido Family Centers, M.E.N.D., Pacoima Beautiful, Habitat for Humanity and Chrysalis to help provide financial literacy education to those communities. “We not only train the non-profit organizations, our own volunteers go out in the community with these organizations and teach an average of 6 to 10 classes,” said Rashi Kallur Citigroup’s community relations officer for the San Fernando Valley. The work in the Northeast Valley, including Pacoima, the city of San Fernando and Arleta, where Citibank operates branches, extends to personal outreach efforts as well. “Where we have those branches, we have to understand the community around us, and how to make those communities better,” said Kathy Scott, area manager for Citibank. “Personal bankers spend a lot of time on developing the community with one-on-one training and training other community leaders to continue that effort. We’ve been able to see changes in the community and it makes us feel pretty good to see that.” Citibank has sponsored the San Fernando Valley Economic Forecast provided by the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center at Cal State University Northridge since 2003, research that Citibank officials say is key to the operation of the 21 branches the bank has in the Valley. “As community relations officer, I feel personally we really need to understand what’s going on in my region with housing and economic development,” Kallur said. “The forecast is a tool for us to understand the community and how we can serve it.” Through a Citigroup Foundation grant, the bank has also provided scholarships to needy students at Moorpark College. Citibank also funds several programs geared to promote early education and to mentor teachers in urban areas encouraging them to remain in their sometimes challenging jobs. Shelly Garcia

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