Janie Barrera, the president and chief executive officer of Accion Texas, has been selected to receive American Banker's 2008 Innovator Award.

Ms. Barrera is the founding president and CEO of Accion Texas, which, under her leadership, has become the largest microlender in the United States, with a portfolio of more than $20 million.

A portfolio deal reached with Citigroup Inc. this year shows how Accion Texas is changing the state of U.S. microfinance. The agreement, the first of its kind in this country, calls for the New York company to purchase up to $30 million of loans from Accion Texas over five years. Accion Texas will continue to service the loans, with Citi sharing in the risks and the profits in the shared portfolio.

Under Ms. Barrera, Accion Texas has made financial education a critical component of its customer relationships, and low loss rates have been one of its trademarks. Its portfolio-at-risk — the portion of its loans outstanding delinquent by more than 30 days — was just 4.2% at the end of last year.

Innovation at Accion Texas is not confined to the Citi transaction. It has developed its own proprietary lending platform, and last year it began providing underwriting, online application, and other services to microlending institutions nationwide.

Ms. Barrera will be one of six industry leaders saluted this year. Jerry Grundhofer, the chairman emeritus of U.S. Bancorp, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Kenneth D. Lewis, will be presented with the Banker of the Year award. Recipients of the Community Banker of the Year awards will be announced in the coming days.

The awards will be presented at the Banker of the Year Awards gala Dec. 4 at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

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