Citi to roll out more digital banking services

The Citibank Singapore building in Asia Square. Between 2016 and this year, Citi's consumer bank operations for Asia "cost-to-serve" fell by 10 per cent, with the net income in the first quarter now at US$1.12 billion (S$1.5 billion). Asia remains th
The Citibank Singapore building in Asia Square. Between 2016 and this year, Citi's consumer bank operations for Asia "cost-to-serve" fell by 10 per cent, with the net income in the first quarter now at US$1.12 billion (S$1.5 billion). Asia remains the largest income-generating region outside of North America for the bank.ST FILE PHOTO

Over the next few months, US banking giant Citi will be unveiling more digital moves. It is redesigning its mobile service for its credit card customers in Asia, with this service due to be up and running by the year end.

Citi is also rolling out its natural language chatbot on Facebook Messenger worldwide after making its global launch in Singapore. These moves come as the bank has made a concerted push on the digital front.

"It's been 21/2 years of transforming our business from an analog to a digital business," said Mr Anand Selvakesari, head of consumer banking for Asia-Pacific and EMEA at Citi in an interview. "Clients are now saying, 'Bring banking to me'."

Such efforts have paid off. Between 2016 and this year, Citi's consumer bank operations for Asia "cost-to-serve" fell by 10 per cent, with the net income in the first quarter now at US$1.12 billion (S$1.5 billion). Asia remains the largest income-generating region outside of North America for the bank, even as there has been a reduction in its physical branches by about 30 per cent.

Like many other banks, Citi has offered banking services through WeChat, and is the first to offer similar banking services through the Line app in Thailand. Consequently, call centre inquiries are down 40 per cent in China and 22 per cent in Thailand, said Mr Selvakesari. By offering voice biometrics as a form of authentication, call durations have also shortened by about 30 seconds each.

Trends speak to the changing digital habits of consumers in Asia. Today, nine out of 10 retail transactions are done through digital channels at Citi, while 40 per cent of consumer loans are acquired online.

"Open banking will become very relevant - the rails will get opened up," said Mr Selvakesari. As it is, Singapore is getting on-board with a centralised know-your-customer data repository, so banks here can easily access customers' data to open accounts.

Citi has also opened up close to 100 application programming interfaces, or APIs, of its services to partners that can help to distribute its services. APIs are a set of commands that allow software applications to speak to one another.

Such partners include aggregators that sell credit cards through their platforms. One in three Citi cards is acquired online.

A physical branch network gives lenders a limited reach, Mr Selvakesari observed. As an example, the partnership with chat app Line in Thailand could give Citi access to more than 30 million Line users in Thailand.

By embracing partnerships, the bank has been able to match up with customers who are actively seeking out its services. By applying data analytics to personalise content, the result is a stickier relationship with clients that is also more profitable, Mr Selvakesari added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2018, with the headline 'Citi to roll out more digital banking services'. Print Edition | Subscribe