Citigroup may not be the fastest bank to promote analysts to vice president (VPs). It may not always pay its senior associates and junior VPs as much as - say - Bank of America, but it has one special perk that no other bank seems to replicate: it lets select members of its junior banking ranks take a four and a half week holiday.
This being finance, those four weeks aren't spent lying on a beach eating melons and swatting sandflies. Citi's juniors are still working; they're just not sitting in offices in London or New York and dealing with Citi's standard clients. Instead, they get to work in Kenya, helping local entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. It's like The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, but more urban and with analysts and associates added into the mix.
The program is open to all Citi's analysts and associates across both its markets and the investment banking division, but is heavily rationed. To avoid thousands of young bankers simultaneously descending on the Kenyan cities of Nakuru and Eldoret, Citi requires its juniors to create video pitches explaining why they'd be great volunteers. The best 24 are chosen. Citi insiders say the program is heavily over-subscribed and, "very popular."
Citi has run the program since 2016. So far, Citi's keen volunteers have helped local entrepreneurs producing everything from sugar cane juice and cow feed, to entrepreneurs running beauticians and tailoring services. The Citi juniors helped with strategy and accounting. They also gifted 'loans' at a rate of 5% (compared to what Citi says is a local rate of 15%) which Citi doesn't demand repayment of - so it's not just about volunteering after all.
This doesn't seem to have discouraged Citi's analysts and associates. 60% of those who won a place on the program in the past said it was "excellent" and the remaining 40% said it was "very good." Crucially, spending four and a half weeks volunteering (and making loans) in Africa may also do wonders for your career back home. - More than anything else, past attendees said their time in Kenya improved their leadership skills.
Spending 4.5 weeks in Africa should also do wonders for Citi juniors' profiles internally. Paco Ybarra, Citi's global head of markets, and Manolo Falcó and Tyler Dickson, Citi's co-heads of banking, capital markets and advisory, all take a strong interest in juniors on the program. If you're one of the lucky 24, you not only get to spend 4.5 weeks out of the office doing 'good work;' you could also be earmarked for advancement upon your return.
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