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IT trends spotted and checked by experts

Head of operations and technology at Citigroup

Don Callahan is head of operations and technology at Citigroup where he oversees Enterprise O&T and works closely with the Consumer and Institutional Clients Group O&T organisations. Mr...


A 200-year-old brand at the cutting edge of Big Data

28 May, 2013 10:17 am

Citigroup has been in existence for over two centuries and much of its growth in past years was inorganic, meaning expansion through acquisition. As a result, we have worked hard to standardise and automate our systems globally, so that we can get the most from our vast amount of data and meet clients' need for mobile access.

IT is a premium area of importance across Citi. In the late 1970s, then-chief executive Walter Wriston began to organise the business along different lines, and was the first executive to put this kind of emphasis on IT.

Over the last few years, we have increased our efforts to become a very smart organisation that operates globally on common platforms. With a significant IT budget and a team of developers that outnumbers Microsoft or Google, we maintain a focus on running more efficiently every year and staying on target with our five-year technology plans.

Big Data success leads to direct service improvements

Big Data, or the management and analysis of vast amounts of information, is no longer a buzzword. Since 2009, we have been working non-stop on our data road map, under which we are focusing on getting the most results from this information. With global data volumes said to be doubling every year, you can imagine the growth in information we have at a financial organisation of the scale of Citi.

We aim to offer our clients a level of service that is superior to other banks. We are focused on predictive analytics, learning not only people's needs but what they are likely to want in the future - so we can be ready with the right products and services. We are also vigilant in protecting data and commit quite a bit of resources on information security.

Part of our analytical ability stems from our standardised, common core platforms. Under a strategy called 'Project Rainbow', we made are making sure all our operations can talk to each other globally and have the same information at their fingertips. This will means that as a Citi customer you could go into a bank anywhere and have your requirements met. 

Meeting mobile demand

The surge in consumer devices and the mobile Internet is unprecedented. Even in the mid-1990s at the start of a real growth in internet popularity, I don't think anyone would have predicted the level of acceptance of mobile Internet that there is now. With the penetration of mobile devices at over one unit to every person in most markets globally, customers expect every day-to-day service, including banking, to be available in their hands. Therefore we have focused extensively on giving consumers the right banking services on all of their devices.

But it is the popularity of consumer devices among businesses that is often most overlooked in our industry. As an example, our CitiDirect BE service, which provides treasury services anywhere on any regular device, has grown dramatically from handling $1 billion (£640 million) in treasury volumes in 2011, to $37 billion (£23.8 billion) this year. This is because of the demand from businesses to be connected and able to transact wherever they are.

We are investing in mobile within other business areas. In foreign-exchange for example, our Velocity system enables businesses to trade on the web on PCs, phones and tablets, by having all the research and analytics in their hands.

Digitisation and automation

As digital grows, we are looking to modernise areas that are traditionally paper intensive, such as paying in cheques or going through the mortgage application process. We now have the ability for customers to scan cheques instead of having to pay them in at the bank - and we are working on automating and digitising other processes, including, for example, mortgages, which we expect will save time, cut costs and eliminate errors. 

As we deliver fast-changing and advanced IT, we remain close to our IT suppliers in order to ensure they can continue to serve us to their best. I speak regularly with senior management of our suppliers, so we can interact on where their business is going and where we would like them to be able to help us. It's important for us to share our priorities.

Technology and operations will always be fast changing areas, but it is through proper process organisation, standardisation and automation, and the meeting of opportunities such as Big Data and mobility, that we can focus on success.
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