The bank is also getting one in five credit card signups online.
Felimy Greene is managing director and regional head of customer franchise responsible for digital banking, marketing, client experience and decision management for Citi’s Consumer Banking business in Asia Pacific and EMEA.
Prior to this appointment in January 2015, Felimy was Asia Pacific head of digital banking responsible for driving Citi’s online and mobile banking to serve some 15 million consumer customers in 12 countries.
He sat down with Asian Banking and Finance to discuss why the bank is so focused on digital in Asia and what the future holds.
ABF: Why is digitisation important in Asia for Citi?
Digitisation is extremely important for Citi, for a number of reasons. Firstly and most importantly, it is because our customers expect it. People have embraced mobile technology with extraordinary speed in the last few years, completely changing the ways in which they communicate and access information and a growing range of services.
It’s really been a massive shift - from something that was essentially confined to the home or office, to something that is with people all the time, everywhere they go. The mass adoption of smartphones and tablets with their intuitive, touch enabled experiences has really redefined the meaning of the term convenient. As a global bank with a predominantly urban and mobile customer base, we have to meet these new expectations.
Digitisation is also a major priority with respect to how efficiently we run our business. The investments we are making to make life simpler for our customers are also transforming our systems and processes internally, making them faster and more efficient in every respect.
It’s clear that this era of digitisation is enabling a wide range of new competitors to enter our markets. We certainly recognise this and our strategy is broadly to embrace it. We need to transform our business and we are doing that, we also believe that we need to be an enabler of change in the industry, and we are investing significantly in this respect too, through our developer outreach in the Citi Mobile Challenge, our API strategy, our innovation labs and our growth and ventures organization in Silicon valley.
We are also starting to see a push to digitise from some of our regulators. They want to drive financial innovation in their markets, delivering services that are better, faster and more economical for citizens and businesses. Many of them also see digitisation as being key to delivering a more robust and secure financial services platform through the use of innovative technologies such as biometrics.
ABF: What is the impact on branches from digital banking?
Digital banking is transforming the way in which we serve our clients. Traffic in our branches is down 50% in the last five years – while in the same time period digital transactions are up over 100%. Digital banking is not completely replacing the branch experience, but rather supplementing it, while the nature of branch interactions is changing.
We already have a relatively light footprint of smart branches in high impact urban locations and we are continuously optimizing this through a mix of iconic city locations, transit hubs, retail malls etc. They blend the best digital capabilities with Citi’s signature high touch service and advice for more complex client needs.
ABF: How are you working with Fin Tech?
Citi created a new unit called Citi FinTech in New York last October to lead our transition to a smartphone-centric business model and reinvent how we work and what we deliver. Led by Heather Cox, its mandate is to build the bank of tomorrow, delivering a radically simple, connected customer experience with the smartphone at its centre.
This group is also responsible for leading Citi’s collaboration with Fin Tech startups through the Citi Mobile Challenge, a globally orchestrated hackathon series that is scouring the world for the best apps and ideas to incorporate into our mobile banking apps. Since its inception just over 18 months ago, the Citi Mobile Challenge has visited 4 continents, including Asia late last year when it came to Bangalore, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney. The program is the largest of its kind in the world and has attracted entries from over 6,500 innovators. It is now incubating 20 winning concepts from around the world.
Citi FinTech also operates two innovation labs, in Singapore and New York. The labs provide an environment and resources where new ideas can be rapidly prototyped before market deployment.
ABF: What is your digital banking strategy in Asia?
Citi’s digital strategy is built around delivering remarkable banking experiences to our customers wherever they are. The financial industry is highly competitive, and in order to remain the customer’s preferred bank globally, we need to constantly innovate to bring them the best digital experiences possible.
Asia has seen explosive growth in mobile adoption and now leads the world in this respect. Asia also has the highest rate of engagement on social media through mobile. We are working intensively in this space and have already launched our first Citi branded interactive experience within a social platform on WeChat in China.
Citi customers in China can now register with Citi on WeChat and receive alerts, offers and even access account balances and transaction history without leaving the WeChat environment.
We are building on a good base - Citi in Asia draws some 20 million visits to our online properties every month and 95% of all transactions already happen outside a branch. One out of every five new credit card accounts acquired comes from digital sources and over 50% of our clients are actively using digital banking channels – up from 30% three years ago.
We passed 8m users for the first time in March 2014 and we are targeting 10 million active digital customers within next two years. Citi was the first bank to offer 7 years of online statement history free of charge to all customers and today over half of our clients now receive monthly electronic statements.
ABF: What new digital features are you adding?
A major initiative for us this year has been the replacement of our Citi Mobile Banking App with completely new software with a brand new look and feel that is faster andsimpler to use. We have recently deployed this App in 10 Asian markets and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Customers love the “Snapshot” feature, which enables them to view account balances and recent transactions without having to enter a password, while the new Mobile Optimised Brokerage functionality is getting excellent results in Singapore and Hong Kong.
We’ve also made Touch Id available to iPhone users in a number of markets and the response to this has been really fantastic, with large numbers of customers activating and using it several times a week. We have also added significant new security features to our platform, and made a highly visible change to our Citiphone service by introducing Voice Identification using Biometric technology, eliminating the need for customers to go through the traditional question and answer identification process when they call in for support.
The new Citi Mobile App is also the foundation for a wide range of new capabilities that we are currently either developing or planning. In the near term we will be extending Touch ID to all marketsand will deliver our first wearable banking solution for this fast growing area.
We will make a number of enhancements to our investment platform, enabling customers to perform a wider range of transactions on their phones and giving them enhanced information about their portfolio as well as information about relevant funds and investment products. We will also continue to enhance our presence on Social platforms, building on the work we have recently done with WeChat in China and with LINE in Thailand.
ABF: Why is digitization important in China?
China is currently undergoing the fastest and most comprehensive digital disruption of any banking market in the world. The scale and pace of consumer adoption is extraordinary: the online population in China is now close to 700m (roughly half of the entire country) and over 90% of this group accesses the internet primarily via mobile phone.
Last year 358m Chinese people made payments on their mobile devices – an increase of almost two-thirds from the previous year.Almost all of these payments are being made via two key digital ecosystems in China with over 500m active users on WeChat and 400m registered Alipay users.
It is vital to our overall strategy that we are available and connected in the places where our customers live, work and play - that is why in April this year we plugged our network deeper into these digital ecosystems. Much as we would place a Smart Branch in a busy city centre retail mall, we have created a Citi branded experience within WeChat, enabling customers to conveniently access account information and services without leaving the Digital venue in which they are spending significant amounts of time. This is an important first step for us and the feedback from customers has been terrific – but we are not stopping here and have much more to do.
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