Webinar: Towards Financial Inclusion: Investing in Immigrant Futures

September 17, 2013

Access to basic banking – from credit and savings to microfinance – can also contribute to better housing, employment opportunity and a secure future for many immigrants. Learn about how smart initiatives in San Francisco and Calgary are removing barriers to financial inclusion for immigrants, and helping the financially vulnerable achieve a viable path to economic well-being.

 Webinar Video


Featured Good Ideas

  • In San Francisco, the Mayor’s Office led the launch of Bank On San Francisco, a partnership between the municipal Office of Financial Empowerment, financial institutions, and community-based organizations, that helps introduce the “unbanked” to mainstream financial services. Participating banks and credit unions let clients with little or no banking history open no- or low-fee accounts (with no minimum balance), waiving their first overdraft charges as newcomers learn how to bank and receive financial counseling.
  • Based in Calgary, the Immigrant Access Fund (IAF) micro loan program provides internationally trained newcomers, regardless of occupation or training, with loans of up to $10,000 to help cover the cost of obtaining the licensing or training they require to work in their field in Canada. The IAF program is completely community-based. IAF refers clients needing guidance to local agencies, and local agencies refer their community members who need financial assistance to IAF. Loan decisions are made by a team of volunteers and staff, and the loan relationship does not involve a third party bank or credit union.


Leigh Phillips, Director, San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment, City and County of San Francisco.

Leigh has worked for the Office of the Treasurer City and County of San Francisco since December 2004, launching the country’s second “Office of Financial Empowerment” (SF OFE) in 2009 . She has successfully managed the creation and implementation of the City’s financial empowerment initiatives, including the widely recognized “Bank On” program, the first municipal effort to bank the unbanked, which has since been replicated in 100 cities and states across the country; and JoinBankOn.org, its technical assistance web portal to help other communities start Bank On Programs.

Other SF OFE programs led by Leigh include the city’s “Kindergarten to College” program; the San Francisco Smart Money Network, a collaborative of public, private and non-profit agencies promoting high quality financial education; and, CurrenC SF, focused on employer engagement in financial capability and universal access to electronic pay. The work of the SF OFE has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, the Economist, Time Magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and featured on NPR and CNN.

Leigh also serves as Chair of the Board of the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), and co-chair of the San Francisco Family Economic Success Coordinating Council. She received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award in 2008 and was named one of the Bay Area’s “Top Forty Under Forty” in 2013.

Dianne Fehr, Executive Director, Immigrant Access Fund of Canada  (Calgary)

Dianne joined the IAF program in 2006 as Executive Director of IAF Alberta and in May 2013 became Executive Director of the newly created IAF Canada. IAF is a community-based micro loan program that helps immigrants overcome the barriers they face in paying for the licensing or training they require to work in their field in Canada.

Prior to joining the not-for-profit sector in 2000 to work in communications and fund development, Dianne was Manager of Marketing for one of Canada’s largest international law forms. Dianne is the current volunteer chair of the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council, a position she has held since 2009.

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