The Anti-Bribery Crusader Lending a Guiding Hand to Immigrant Women - OZY | A Modern Media Company
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Because she’s rooting out corruption, and lifting those who need it.

By Eromo Egbejule

Chinwe Esimai’s journey to becoming one of the world’s most influential bankers began in 1995 when she arrived in America as a teenager with her parents and four siblings. “I remember feeling very optimistic and feeling a strong sense of my ability to do anything,” says Esimai, whose middle name Ijeoma means “beautiful journey” in her native Igbo language.

A quarter of a century later, the 41-year old’s list of accomplishments reads like a novel.

Nigerian Americans are one of the most successful ethnic groups in the U.S. More than 29 percent of them over the age of 25 hold a graduate degree, and Esimai’s parents fall into that category, so it was almost expected that their daughter would. She proved them right, sailing smoothly through prestigious institutions including Harvard and going on to become a law professor focusing on Africa’s emerging capital markets at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.

Anti-bribery and corruption dominated conversations in politics and at the dinner table.

Chinwe Esimai

All of that education has come in handy in forging a successful career that continues to defy expectations. She had two stints at Goldman Sachs, most recently as a vice-president and anti-bribery compliance officer. In 2016, after four years at Citigroup, she was named chief anti-bribery and corruption officer — the first person appointed to that role — and managing director, effectively placing her in the top 1 percent of the global workforce.

At Citi, which has 200,000 employees and operations in more than 160 countries, she oversees how the banking conglomerate aligns with regulations across the globe. “The seeds of my passion for anti-bribery work were sown at an early age,” she told Medium last year. “Conversations about anti-bribery and corruption dominated conversations in politics and at the dinner table.”

While in Minneapolis, she began having conversations of a different kind, guiding other immigrant women whom she calls American Dream Queens, in overcoming issues of systemic sexism and racism to shine as luxuriantly as possible.

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