A time-honored way for unpopular companies to burnish their image is to dole out lots of money to charity. Now it looks like the new alternative, at least for financial services businesses, is to hand out big bucks to small companies.
Just consider this. On Wednesday, Citigroup announced the launch of a $200 million fund to boost small-business lending in low-income communities. It linked up with Calvert Foundation, a nonprofit investment management firm, and Opportunity Financial Network, a financial intermediary for community investments, to help with these efforts. The deal is that Citi will provide $199 million through a mix of equity and loans. The other two organizations will supply the rest.