Digitisation and the rapid adoption of new technology has changed the financial industry and the way it serves its clients. Notably, the digital customer journey has grown in importance and banking is being redefined. As Citi continues to transform digitally, it is also building up a next generation of bankers who are digital natives with a passion for innovation, to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of banking.
Citi sees these next generation digital natives as critical enablers in helping the firm drive innovation and grow. Lee Wei Chen, who joined Citi’s Consumer Graduate Programme this year, says: “Citi is very forward looking and innovative. There is a constant push to be ‘client-obsessed’ so that we continually come up with new ideas to meet their needs.”
He adds that the bank values the contribution of employees like himself who have just graduated from university and is new to the banking industry. “I got my first iPhone when I was 16 and since then I have been immersed in technology. I believe we can see things from a user perspective and offer insights.”
Zhang Yu, who joined Citi in 2014 on its Cross-Franchise Graduate Programme with a consumer focus, agrees that the bank has always encouraged input from its next generation employees. She remembers that when she joined, the graduate trainees were encouraged to be part of task forces that used technology to help solve some of the issues Citi faced.
“Our task was to pick a line of business and consult the business manager about a specific business problem, then use digitisation as the means to solve this problem.” Their goal was not just to conceptualise an idea, but also to prototype the solution and present their work to the senior management team.
“They actually value ideas from younger employees who have just joined the bank fresh out of school,” she says. Citi encourages and rewards innovation among its staff through various initiatives, including a staff hackathon in 2017 and regular internal awards to recognise digitisation efforts such as projects to unlock the power of data.
There was also the Citi Mobile Challenge, an industry-wide hackathon in 2015 involving collaboration with external players such as FinTech developers from the wider financial ecosystem. Zhang remembers taking part in the event, where Citi opened its suite of APIs for participants to explore solutions to reshape the mobile banking experience.
“I was project manager and I was exposed to many meaningful discussions. It was my first exposure to customer experience design,” she says. “It is how I started my journey working in digitisation. It was a life-changing experience.”
Today, Zhang works in Citi’s credit card and personal loans business, where she is a digital product specialist, helping the bank’s digital customer acquisition channels gain traction. One project she has worked on involves customers being able to sign up for credit cards while they are shopping online at partner websites.
She explains that Citi has integrated its system with MyInfo, the digital personal information repository managed by the Singapore government, meaning sections of the form can be auto filled in after customers use their SingPass to authorise sharing their data. Such digital innovation makes banking much more seamless and have come to be what customers expect.
Han Kwee Juan, Chief Executive Officer for Citibank Singapore Limited, says: “As customers increasingly demand new digital experiences, to truly understand customers’ needs will require the best digital native talents who have a passion for banking and making banking relevant, convenient and remarkable. It is essential that our employees are comfortable with data and technology and adapt our approaches with the fast-changing financial landscape. At Citi, we encourage a culture of curiosity and boldness so that our staff are empowered with a future-ready mindset to continuously experiment and innovate.”
Zhang says she initially wanted to work at Citi because she was told its graduate programme was the best in the industry, adding that the experience has always lived up to her expectations. During the programme she rotated through seven different departments and had a total of nine different managers. Wherever she was working, she says she was encouraged to speak up and use her initiative.
“Citi has a very open culture. I never had an issue openly discussing my thoughts with my managers. “I could raise concerns and propose solutions and, if they were reasonable, I would have their full support in getting my ideas implemented.” She adds that the rotation programme not only provided her with technical and soft skills training, but it also helped her to build up a network around the bank.
Lee is doing a more recent version of the Consumer Graduate Programme, which involves two six-month rotations and a year-long one. He says: “I believe rotating through different departments helps us to get a deep dive into the different aspects of the bank and gives us a macro picture of how all the different departments are linked.
“It actually helped me to understand a lot about the bank in a very short time. ”It is not only employees on the graduate programme who benefit from training, with Citi also placing a high emphasis on lifelong learning and ensuring all of its staff have the skills they need to succeed in the evolving financial landscape.
Han says: “Technology has dramatically accelerated the pace of change in the financial industry, and digital disruption will be an enduring phenomenon. As a result, the role and required skills of a financial professional may transform several times over the course of one’s career. Bankers must be prepared to continually reinvent themselves, while financial institutions must provide the necessary support and environment to foster professional growth.”
Zhang explains that there are a lot of opportunities for people to change teams and work on different assignments. Under Citi’s “2+2” career programme, an employee who has spent two years in a team can request to work in a different area of the bank to extend their own skills and experience. If the prospective manager is open to bringing this employee onboard, the current manager has to release him or her within two months.
“This shows the support from the organisation for employees to have opportunities to learn and have different exposures as they develop,” Zhang says.
Lee agrees: “There will never be a dull moment where you are doing the same thing for three to four years and there is not much change in your job. An organisation of Citi’s size and scale also provides a lot of opportunities to gain valuable regional or global experience.”
The bank’s Core Consumer Banking Skills training, which is accredited by Institute of Banking and Finance, provides online, self-paced learning to enable employees to gain the skills they need to succeed in the digital era. Citi has also recently rolled out the Professional Conversion Programme, which helps staff remain up to date in the digital economy and enhance their career progression.
Although it has been just a few months since Lee embarked on his career with Citi, Lee says he already has experienced “the forefront of what the future of banking will look like”.
To those thinking of joining Citi, Han says: “Anyone embarking on their career with Citi today will have the opportunity of a lifetime to be a change maker and create the future of banking.”