Rhode Island Market Executive
Courageous Thinking and Action
Based on their belief that a good bank sits at the heart of a healthy community, Citizens Bank has developed community initiatives to address key community needs across its footprint - by providing support for programs that help to improve the lives of individuals and families and thereby strengthen our neighborhoods and communities. Citizens Helping Citizens is the bank’s comprehensive community engagement effort that leverages the strengths of the company and the skills of its colleagues to enhance its communities. The bank focuses on three specific areas that it believes will fortify the economic vitality of our neighborhoods: Fighting Hunger, Teaching Money Management, and Strengthening Communities.
Vision and Innovation
Under Barbara Cottam’s leadership, Citizens Bank has developed numerous innovative programs in Rhode Island like Striking Out Hunger, Neighbors in Need and most notably Champions in Action. The development of the Champions in Action program began in 2002, after identifying a trend of nonprofit organizations seeking support for marketing and public relations efforts. Champions in Action is a comprehensive program that builds the capacity of small to mid-sized nonprofit organizations by providing vital resources to fulfill their missions - financial and volunteer support along with public awareness. Recognizing that the greatest public awareness would come from the media, the bank identified media partners in each state/market to bring the program to life by raising the profile of these organizations and the community needs they are working to address.
Citizens Bank has continued to develop innovative ideas to help strengthen our communities. Recognizing that no one group can solve some of our most challenging community needs, Citizens works to convene with other stakeholders to drive meaningful results. The bank’s Growing Communities initiative, for example, has achieved tremendous success by engaging local stakeholders and leveraging existing assets in communities to help revitalize neighborhoods. A focus on economic development drives the program which supports small business job creation and job training. It also involves working with local business and community groups to make an area more livable which can take the form of access to local farm systems and nutritious food, façade and block beautification, providing financial education and health information resources, public art enhancements and park clean-ups.
Community sits as a pillar of Citizens Bank’s Credo. It is part of the company’s DNA. Citizens recognizes that its community commitment goes beyond financial support. The bank’s colleagues are directly invested in helping to strengthen the communities where they live and work. Colleagues participate in a range of volunteer activities such as teaching financial literacy workshops, mentoring students, coaching youth sports and serving food at local soup kitchens. In 2016, Citizens colleagues provided more than 89,000 hours of volunteer service at local community organizations, and more than 500 of the bank’s colleagues serve on local boards.
JA Mission Moment
Junior Achievement introduces students at all ages to financial literacy skills, helping them to be educated citizens of our community. I was struck by how powerful the JA lesson message is when I delivered a lesson to kindergartners about pennies, nickels and dimes. It was a powerful technique to employ to develop the foundation of making good decisions – not only with finances, but with life choices in general. I saw the excitement on the children’s faces in making their own choices in what to do with their money and helping them realize the impact of their decisions. My parents shared a good principle with me growing up – you should spend 1/3, save 1/3, and give 1/3. Throughout my life I have adhered to that principle as I think about money. The lesson stuck. Introducing students at all ages to economics and the basics of financial literacy helps students become educated citizens. It’s never too soon to begin to teach our children, and JA is at the forefront of educating our kids about sound financial decisions that will impact them for a lifetime.