Here's How Citigroup is Banking on Global Success with Digital Technology
Sitting alongside JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo as one of the big four banks in the United States, Citigroup counts a Saudi Arabian prince among its investors, and sits at number 30 on the Fortune 500 list.
With the global economy now beginning to emerge from the crisis which has dominated the financial industry for the past decade, there has never been a better time for businesses to start planning for the future. For Citigroup, this means looking at the world of digital technology and the ways in which it can make the business of finance run smoother for the providers of financial services and their customers - wherever they are in the world.
Citi Philippines is pioneering the digital conversion in the region. Claiming close to half of its clients are now signed up to its internet banking services, Citi is continuing to innovate the country's financial sector. The next step is to offer the Philippines first and only online credit card application and approval system.
Customers can fill out the online form, submit their documents digitally, and then simply wait a few minutes for their approval decision - making accessing credit services easier than ever.
"We were one of the first banks to launch an online presence and also one of the pioneers in attracting customers through our website," said David Stoughton, Director for Credit Payment Products, Citigroup. "At that time, we were only capturing the information online when they apply, but the processing still takes place offline including the credit review. With this latest service, we are excited to break new ground for the industry and deliver another innovation for the Filipino consumer."
While online credit card applications may not seem like big news for people in the western world, it demonstrates Citi's dedication to bringing innovations which some countries take for granted to the rest of the world.
Digital Reward Schemes
Citi has also been experimenting with a digitized reward scheme. Previously, special gifts for turning in an application to open up an account were only available in physical locations such as banks, or special booths at shopping malls.
Now these rewards can be earned by online applicants as well. In early 2017, customers applying online would receive a digital voucher which could be redeemed for snack foods. Once the application had been approved and the customer had made a qualifying purchase with their new credit card, they would receive an online coupon which could be redeemed for a FitBit Charge 2 wearable tech wristband.
However, in Thailand, Citigroup has established its most ambitious rewards partnership yet with Amazon. Due soon to be expanded to other countries in Asia, Thai credit card holders can redeem their earned reward points against purchases made with the online giant. Not content with a partnership with the world's biggest online retailer, Citigroup has also announced regional allegiances with several other big digital companies, including Uber and Airbnb.
"In our drive to digital, we have also become the credit card brand that online and mobile retailers prefer. This initiative presents a bright outlook in a country which greatly embraces the growth of online shopping and lifestyle," said Stoughton.
Partnerships with digital retailers and service providers are a great fit for credit card providers. With customers using their Citi cards to pay for goods and services, reward schemes create a kind of three-way symbiosis that benefits everyone - Citi, the retailer, and of course the end consumer.
Optical Character Recognition
One of the more exciting ways Citigroup is incorporating new technology into its business comes from how its Singapore division is addressing an age-old problem in international trade.
While the rest of the world is going digital, the global import/export business is still largely paper based. This requires banks to process huge volumes of paper forms to effectively support their customers with trade transactions. The issue comes when attempting to digitize this information as traditional scanning only leads to a captured image of the page, rather than a true digital copy.
However, Citi Singapore has begun using optical character recognition (OCR) technology to truly digitize paper forms and records. OCR works by passing a special wand or similar device over written text. The sophisticated combination of hardware and software is then able to detect what is written and create a digital copy.
Sanjeev Behl, Citi's Singapore-based Head of Client Operations for Asia TTS, said, "When you think how many clients Citi has globally, and how many individual transactions they support, that's a lot of processing. If you wanted to find, for example, the fourth invoice in a document set, you may have to search through multiple and (sometimes) hundreds of pages - nothing was automatically categorized. It was inefficient and time consuming for both employees and clients."
In having a true digital copy of physical documents, editing and searching becomes much simpler. What's more, by eliminating the need to manually search through files, Citigroup not only reduces the potential for errors, but saves dozens of man hours in the process.
With innovations such as these covering a worldwide scope, it's clear Citigroup isn't taking a back seat when it comes to embracing digital technology.
The last word goes to Citi Chairman, Don Callahan.
"As technology changes, we are going to have to adapt accordingly. Over the last five years, we have continued to enhance our capabilities at Citi. We have changed all our significant platforms globally, as well as our core hardware and architecture. In the process, we have also been able to achieve dramatic savings. As a result, we have state-of-the-art technology across Citi and are running at an optimum cost structure."
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