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Transforming the way banks work with technology

Banks must leverage new digital tools to satisfy the changing needs of their customers.


CONSUMER behaviour and expectations are changing rapidly, as they become empowered by new digital technology that allows them an unprecedented level of choice and freedom.

With the mass adoption of smartphones and tablets, bank customers now expect the convenience of accessing and using banking services at their fingertips, wherever they may be. As a global bank with a predominantly urban and globally mobile customer base, we have to meet and exceed these new expectations.

To do so, financial institutions have to fundamentally change the way they operate in two key areas. Firstly, they have to shift to an agile, customer-centric way of working. This means putting the customer at the centre of their efforts to develop new products and services.

Secondly, banks must be open to collaborating with third-party solution providers in order to leverage on expertise that they do not possess in-house. One important way banks can do this is to open up their platforms through application programming interfaces (APIs) to expedite the development of new solutions that will enhance the customer experience.

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Citi has released its APIs to facilitate collaboration with fintech companies and consumer brands worldwide. We are the first major bank to create a self-service global portal that enables developers to write software in multiple contemporary programming languages, with access to a rich set of APIs covering the majority of the functions a bank like Citi can perform. This will enable developers to access banking services and data to build scalable working solutions far more quickly than with traditional methods.

Several commercial applications of Citi's new API platform are already in development, with more being planned. In the US, we have teamed up with Best Buy, MasterCard and Wonder, and in Asia, we have begun work with Virgin Money in Australia and honestbee in Singapore, which will be one of the first API-integrated solutions to launch before the end of this year.

Changing the way we work is nothing new at Citi. Over the course of over 200 years, we have had to constantly adapt to the changing needs of our customers, who today number over 100 million people concentrated in the world's major cities.

At many key turning points in our evolution, this has required us to be at the forefront of innovation, and this time is no exception.

We were the first bank in Singapore to roll out voice biometric authentication in May of this year. This enables customers to be immediately and securely identified on the phone without having to answer several questions, saving them valuable time and making the experience far more personal and convenient.

We are seeing a significant shift in where our customers are spending time, whether they are communicating, consuming media or buying goods and services. We are very focused on understanding this and on building a digital partnership ecosystem to ensure that Citi is present and relevant for them in their digital world.

One notable example of this is in China, where we recently rolled out a Citibank service within WeChat, an instant messaging platform or "digital supermall" that has over 700 million monthly active users. We are also present on most of the major social media platforms to engage with, gather feedback from and provide support to our customers, as well as sharing news and information about Citi and our offerings.

In the past few months, we have also tied up with online retailer Lazada, ride hailing service Grab and online rental platform Airbnb as we become forward compatible by plugging into digital services favoured by our customers. The partnership with Grab, for instance, involves Asia's first pay for rides service using credit card ppoints for Citi cardholders.

Mobile technology has enabled us to make banking more accessible and convenient for a wide range of customers.

For instance, for customers with Citi accounts in other countries we have a free online global transfer service using our internal network that is unique and as easy to use as paying a bill. In just a few seconds, customers can move money to any other Citi account in the world.


Citi has also recently announced the launch of Citi Pay, a new digital wallet that allows cardholders to simply use their mobile phones to tap and pay for their purchases. They will also be able to make online and in-app purchases by using their existing Citibank login credentials.

As these and many other online capabilities are now the preferred option for most of our customers, we are working continuously to evolve and improve every aspect of the digital experience to ensure that it keeps getting simpler, faster, and more convenient. Ultimately, we want to remove as much complexity as possible, giving our customers convenience and peace of mind through a world-class set of financial tools and services built around Citi's proven global platform.

A new chapter is being written in the evolution of financial services. We believe that Citi has tremendous potential to take on the role of being a scale-enabler of change, through our unparalleled global network, our passion to innovate and, as we have just announced this week, by opening our doors and our technology to partners through our Global API Developer Hub. It is a role we look forward to playing and succeeding in, together with the wide range of small and large partners that we are sure will take the journey with us.

  • The writer 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.