Lisa Frison, Citi's Head of U.S. Personal Banking Financial Inclusion and Racial Equity, stepped into her role with the financial institution just one year ago. In that time, she has worked tirelessly to help change the narrative for Black and brown people when it comes to lending and credit invisibility.
"In my career, I have seen a lot of data that speaks to the largest generational wealth transfer projected to occur over the next 30 years; and, if left unchecked, median Black household wealth is on a path to zero by 2053. I am committed to using my voice and seat to change that narrative for our communities," Lisa Frison shares. "This is personally important and what led me into my work in DE&I because I have seen firsthand how elevating and normalizing conversations about money and highlighting pathways to building wealth is transformational in the Black community."
EBONY spoke further with the Citi executive to learn how we can combat credit invisibility (meaning you have limited or no credit history with the major credit bureaus) as well as get tips for first-time home buyers ready to begin the process.
EBONY: Black and brown communities are often disproportionately affected by credit lending bureaus, what are some ways that we can work to make ourselves more "attractive" for lenders?
Lisa Frison: According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, credit invisibility disproportionately affects diverse and historically under resourced communities—with 15% of Black and Hispanic consumers being credit invisible compared to 9% of white consumers. Credit is important for achieving financial goals like buying a car, accessing lower interest rates, and attaining homeownership. Thus, it is important to understand your credit history, know what is driving it, and prepare for accomplishing your major goals. One of the best ways to do that is through education and planning.
For example, when it comes to homeownership, it’s crucial that everyone—and especially folks from Black and brown communities—takes the time to educate themselves on their own financial situation, and that they do their homework around best practices for securing a mortgage and finding lending solutions that meet their needs. Lenders are trained to be ready to support their clients wherever they may be on their financial journeys, and many offer guidance on repairing credit, building credit profiles, saving, and preparing to qualify for a loan. Lenders also take debt and income into consideration when reviewing your credit readiness, so make sure you have a clear picture of your finances to set and manage your budget. If you are past due on debt, reach out to your creditor to bring your account current. If you see an error on your credit (you can pull a report on freecreditreport.com), work with a credit counselor to ask for it to be reviewed and corrected.
Knowing the steps you should take to determine what you can spend, where you can save, and what you need to consider when it comes to lending needs will make it easier to reach your goals. Also, remember: You are not on your own, so take the time to do research, ask questions, and—advocate for yourself.
What advice/tips do you have for first time buyers to help them better prepare for the home buying process, specifically for Citi's HomeRun Program?
Learn how the process works and meet with several mortgage lenders and non-profit agencies to see what first-time or affordable home buyer programs are available in the market you want to purchase in. They can help you determine how much you can afford to borrow, how much you need to save for a down payment, and what to know about your credit score before applying for a loan. Citi’s HomeRun mortgage program was created to help eliminate key barriers to homeownership, particularly with affordability, qualification, and successful homeownership. The program offers down payments as low as 3% with no mortgage insurance requirement and flexible credit guidelines. Eligible borrowers can also qualify for Citi’s lender paid assistance program of up to $7,500 toward closing costs. The program is available to borrowers with less than 120% of family median income and in cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Washington D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
A traditional credit profile is only one piece of the puzzle when considering a person’s ability to manage a home loan. No matter where you are in your journey, be proactive in finding a good network of professionals who can prepare you with the knowledge and resources you need to have a place to call your own and to build wealth for you and your loved ones.