Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Comerica Bank: Changing the Face of Financial Institutions

“If you live in a community and conduct business in a community, then it’s imperative to give back to that community,” said Irvin Ashford, Community Development and External Affairs Director for Comerica Bank. This philosophy, he emphasized, serves as the foundation for the company’s community involvement initiatives.

Interestingly enough, Ashford’s career actually began in the non-profit sector. “I’m a community guy who works at a bank,” he said. “I consider myself an investment banker by investing in the community and watching those efforts grow.” 


Comerica's Irvin Ashford and Vanessa Reed pictured with
Comerica Scholars from University of Houston
(From L to R: Irvin Ashford, Brittney McGee, Amber McCloud,
Ian Bailey, Qualandria Steward, and Vanessa Reed)
Photo courtesy of Comerica Bank
 For the past ten years, however, Ashford has invested his own professional skills to support community initiatives on behalf of the company.

Headquartered in Dallas, Comerica’s charitable giving efforts are focused within its primary operating locations of Texas, Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan.

In 2010, the company contributed some $10 million to non-profit organizations nationwide, and its employees contributed over 6,000 volunteer hours in Texas alone. Further, Ashford said the company’s employee contributions have gradually increased over the past four years.

It is through these efforts that Ashford said he strives to change the public’s sometimes fearful perception of financial institutions. “A bank is a facilitator for your dreams,” he said. “They should be considered your partner as you journey through life’s circumstances.”

Ashford said Comerica is committed to being a socially responsible business and making tangible investments in communities. The company’s efforts are driven by a distinct community investment mission, as well as issues that are important to its employees.

Comerica’s charitable giving programs are administered through the Comerica Charitable Foundation and Corporate Contributions Program. The company’s specific charitable priorities focus on ensuring the economic development and self-sufficiency of individuals and families through various philanthropic initiatives, including:

  • Employee Volunteerism
  • Financial Literacy
  • Neighborhood Revitalization
  • Small Business Training and Development
  • Transitional and Supportive Housing
  • Access to Health Care
  • Diversity and Inclusion
Comerica executives and community supporters at the
November 9, 2010, unveiling of the Comerica Bank
Financial Literacy Collection at Dallas'
North Oak Cliff Library Branch.
(From L to R: Irvin Ashford, 
David Neumann, Dallas City Council - District 3
Delia Jasso, Dallas City Council -District 1
J. Patrick "Pat" Faubion, Comerica Texas Market President
Corinne Hill, Interim Director, Dallas Public Libraries)
Photo courtesy of Comerica Bank
 Ashford emphasized the benefit of these community giving initiatives to financial institutions. “The reciprocal nature of volunteerism and giving is more than creating a good feeling,” he said. “We benefit by being able to use our craft in a different and meaningful way.”

In addition, he said employee volunteerism efforts provide a neutral platform for staff members to collaborate, which is vastly different from the traditional competitiveness of corporate culture.
“These community collaborations foster team-building and leadership development in a non-threatening environment,” Ashford said.

He emphasized the company’s support of small businesses in this economic climate, as well as its commitment to ensuring the long-term success of entrepreneurs. “We support small business owners by partnering with community lending organizations like ACCION,” he said.

Ashford attributes the company’s successful partnerships to adhering to two key concepts: Community Buy-In and Mutual Respect.

“Comerica is very good about listening to our community partners to learn about what they need rather than telling them what we will give them,” he said. “If I could emphasize one thing, it would be to earn trust, respect and community buy-in by building long-term partnerships with organizations.”

For Ashford, community development is a concept that extends beyond charitable giving. He also strives to influence the perception of African-American men and foster cultural understanding through his work.

“If you notice, I have locks and there aren’t many men in Corporate America who do,” he said. “I hope the people I interact with in business settings realize I’m the same man both in and out of this suit.”

While his community development goals may seem quite vast and daunting, Ashford humbly perceives his efforts as only a small part of the global circle of those working to create community change.

“The non-profit organizations are the real heroes,” he said. “We’re just a helping hand.”

For more information on Comerica Bank’s philanthropic initiatives, visit the company’s community investment webpage.

3 comments:

  1. Nellie August PrudhommeMarch 17, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    I commend the efforts of your organization. Now more than ever for America to rise again, all must assist and re-build. Just as in post world war I and II, our nation looked out for each citizen and we became #1. Philanthropic efforts can be small and from small beginnings a great nation USA became.

    As a retired Army Nurse and a love of military, I recall investments in the welfare our soldiers during lean times were most uplifting and encouraging...helping in America is the way to go

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