Private banks have been slow to overhaul their technology platforms – largely due to high costs and legacy systems.
Some banks have introduced iPad client technology, but have yet to integrate the back-office and front-office experiences in a fully digital way. Yet clients are beginning to urge banks to become more modern in their banking operations – expecting a level of service akin to how they consume in other industries.
Against this backdrop, Citi’s is gunning to bring the industry into the modern era of wealth-management digitalization through Project Sheen – an initiative to deliver a new client experience, after more than 18 months of preparation.
“Investments in automation diminished rapidly after the financial crisis in the industry, but we realized that we are in a new era in private banking and one that requires a fully digital bank,” says Dena Brumpton, COO for the private bank, who is overseeing the project from Citi in London.
While the positive impact of being ahead of the curve in technology is an unknown in banking, it is hoped Citi’s first-mover position will attract new clients. This year it was ranked fourth in Euromoney’s global private banking survey overall – up from fifth in 2013.
The new client/banker engagement platform, called Citi Private Bank in View, combined with a back-office process overhaul, is being piloted with bankers and clients globally. The platform, which has several layers, is collaborative and offers a single online point of contact for clients with their private banker from anywhere in the world.
The homepage will reflect assets and liabilities with the bank, latest research papers, changes in portfolios and notifications from the client’s private banker. The client can then drill down into their portfolios to security level, and track asset allocations against other risk profiles.
Currency and country exposure is highlighted. All account data dating back three years can be accessed. A library provides research papers and investment ideas. The next phase will include an online room for products and services, says Brumpton.
The most innovative portion of the new platform is the Vault, which acts as a secure cloud storage system where clients can keep statements, reports and information provided for account openings, as well as personal data such as passports, property deeds, etc.
Brumpton adds: “We realized that we needed a level of transparency in the client/banker engagement, but also that new technology alone wouldn’t be enough. The back-office processes needed to be reworked such as the on-boarding process which is so paper heavy.
“It’s about how to capture data and store it differently, and then present it better, in a way that is more meaningful to clients and bankers.”
Because of challenges of legacy systems, it is not the largest banks that have the upper hand when it comes to technology. Citi, for example, has only $250 billion in assets under management with the private bank – compared with $1.7 trillion at UBS.
While it is smaller, the US bank benefits from having experience in client/banker technology engagement and overhauling back and front offices from its corporate and transaction banking businesses.
Indeed, Project Sheen was not a large monetary investment for Citi because it used resources from its other business lines.
For the banker, Brumpton says the processes have been designed so all forms can be prepopulated with the client’s data, eliminating the need for bankers to ask clients repeatedly for personal information.
The system allows for digital signing and multiple signers online to cut down on account-opening time. The platform also pools together the structures a client has in place so they can see all accounts – art, portfolios, loan accounts, real estate, etc.
Brumpton says the bank will be tracking whether the new platform changes the behaviour of clients in their interaction with the bank “to see which type of client interacts with In View, how long they stay there, and what areas are most relevant – so we can continue to tweak the platform”.
Citi worked with Eight Inc – the same studio which designed the Apple in-store experience – and with the Citi Ventures team on the design process.