helping our economy work for more people


Jane Fraser

  President, Citi, and CEO, global consumer banking


Mexico runs on cash—some 90% of transactions in 2018 were settled in cash, versus 26% in the US. Many Mexicans must travel or wait in line to pay for services, carrying cash that makes them susceptible to theft. Last year, the country’s central bank launched Cobro Digital (CoDi), a platform enabling anyone, including the 38% of Mexican adults without bank accounts, to make cashless payments. Jane Fraser, then Citibank’s CEO of Latin America, and her team helped design QR code specs to simplify transactions on mobile phones. She tapped Citibank experts from around the world (mobile banking is hugely popular in Asia) to work with the Mexico team to build and market the app. Today, the bank’s Mexican subsidiary, Citibanamex, serves 6.5 million digital clients, and transactions under 8,000 pesos, or about $400, are free to consumers. “You’ve got to have humanity in banking,” she says. Citi has since promoted Fraser, making her one of the most powerful executives in the industry.

Ben Volk

 Director of global payment acceptance and customer experience, Amazon

For Americans without a debit or credit card, it’s nearly impossible to shop online. Amazon’s Ben Volk has devised a way for the company to accept cash, something it has technically done since 2017, but customers had to preload money into their account. With Amazon PayCode, which launched in the U.S. in September 2019, customers can pay with cash at partner Western Union after completing online checkout. Purchases arrive on their doorstep days later. “A lot of it had to come down to trust,” Volk says. (In certain countries outside of the U.S., roughly one-third of first-time Amazon customers opt to use PayCode.) Today, working with the USDA and 36 states, Volk has been piloting a way for recipients of SNAP benefits to buy groceries through Amazon. “I’m super proud to be a part of it,” he says.

Mariana Mazzucato

Founder and director, University College London Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose

Economist Mariana Mazzucato’s ideas have won her the ear of everyone from Pope Francis, who invited her to join the Vatican’s COVID-19 economy task force, to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose Green New Deal was shaped by their conversations. Too often, Mazzucato argues, public investment creates value, and then corporations extract it on behalf of their shareholders, leaving bureaucrats and taxpayers with little to show for their contributions. “If the state is taking risks,” she asks, “are citizens getting the rewards?” In her 2018 book, The Value of Everything, Mazzucato argues that governments should play the role of early-stage venture capitalist and that their bets on potentially transformative ideas are essential for tackling problems like climate change and cancer. Mazzucato recently designed a moonshot policy playbook for the European Commission and, through her Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at University College London, is training a new generation to follow her.

Bechara Choucair

Chief community health officer, Kaiser Permanente

Housing hasn’t traditionally been a component of healthcare. But physician and SVP Bechara Choucair knew it should be. He prompted healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente to create a new, $200 million impact-investing fund in 2018 to address housing stability and homelessness. “It’s nearly impossible for a person to achieve or maintain good health if they don’t have a stable roof over their head,” Choucair says. In 2019, Kaiser designated $50 million of that fund to Bay Area projects and made another $50 million available as loan capital to develop more affordable housing across all Kaiser Permanente markets in the country. A separate fund was also established to move more than 500 older homeless people in the company’s hometown of Oakland, California, into stable housing. The state of California recently copied the idea with a similar flexible fund on the state level. Meanwhile, Choucair is also working with executives at 47 other health systems to drive a nationwide housing and health agenda. “We’re building this in a way that’s replicable. We want other health systems and, honestly, non-health systems, to step up and do that type of work,” he says. Over the past year, the company has partnered with more than a dozen financial and tech companies, including Facebook, to increase affordable housing in the Bay Area.

Meriah Garrett

Head of design, USAA

Meriah Garrett is responsible for creating seamless digital experiences at the United Services Automobile Association, which offers financial and insurance services to more than 13 million active members and veterans of the armed forces. Through design, she is ensuring that every member, even those suffering from post–traumatic stress and other psychological disorders, can use USAA’s services, whether to buy property insurance, bank online, or check their retirement funds. After joining USAA in 2016, she helped with the design of the first voice-guided remote check-deposit capture for the visually impaired. Last year, she made accessibility an imperative across USAA, requiring relevant documentation to accompany each product update and rewarding employees for incorporating accessibility into their work with points they can use for discounts on their health insurance. In the first three months of 2020, the average number of accessibility defects that design reviewers found in USAA products dropped by 45%. “Building accessibility into the controls is a major thing we continue to work on,” Garrett says. Now, she’s looking to address the needs of members with Alzheimer’s, since veterans with PTSD are more than twice as likely to develop the disease, compared with the general population.

Bruce Poon Tip

Founder, G Adventures

A new piece of information began appearing alongside the more than 750 itineraries offered by the small-group global tour company G Adventures in 2018. Called the “Ripple Score,” it signals the percentage of each trip’s cost that remains in the local economy. Since launching G Adventures, in 1990, founder Bruce Poon Tip has been championing responsible travel by, for example, putting guests in locally owned hotels. But working with tens of thousands of suppliers—hotels, boat operators, restaurants, and more—made oversight difficult. He worked with the consultancy Sustainable Travel International to score every supplier that G Adventures works with, based on how many of its employees, managers, and owners are local.
“Once we opened that Pandora’s box, it was a nightmare, because we found out all kinds of things we didn’t know about the companies we work with,” he says. G Adventures is now phasing out certain suppliers and helping new ones, such as a rail line in Peru, bring up their standards. Since the Ripple Score was developed by a third-party organisation, other tour companies are able to adopt it.

Hilary Cottam

Author, Radical Help, and activist

Social entrepreneur Hilary Cottam has spent more than 10 years designing, building, and implementing alternative welfare systems for communities in the U.K. that don’t just manage problems, they help people escape the revolving door of aid dependency. Rather than assigning social workers to community members, for example, Cottam’s experiments allowed people to choose their own. Instead of asking how long someone has been out of work and what their qualifications are, “We say to people, ‘What do you dream of being, and who is the first person you need to know to connect you to that dream?’ ” she says. In 2018, Cottam, who holds a PhD in social sciences, published a book about her work, called Radical Help. Now in its sixth edition with multiple translations, it’s resonated everywhere, she says, because of how “deep changes in our society, most of which are technology driven, make those former systems no longer either affordable or socially useful.” Cottam is now helping design new social systems in Norway and Denmark. “I used to be the person with a radical idea,” she says. “Now I’m the person with the idea that seems really common sense.”


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