Cash management – Citi: the $6.5 billion start-up
When a bank is huge in a particular market, the cost can sometimes be a lack of agility. Success can breed complacency, and a market-leading position might lead to a certain absence of ingenuity and a danger of getting set in one’s ways. Citi, this year’s – and last year’s – overall Euromoney Cash management poll winner, runs no risk of hubris despite its vast scale and huge commercial success.
By maintaining an entrepreneurial culture – and seeing itself as a consolidator of an extremely fragmented industry rather than a goliath – Citi stays on its toes and this year has topped scores of categories in the Euromoney poll. Even its nearest rivals are happy to concede their admiration for what the bank can offer – and how it sells it. What’s Citi’s secret?
The first explanation, according to Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi, global head of treasury and trade solutions at Citi, is that the bank sees itself as "a technology company with a banking licence". In the technology-driven world of transaction banking, such a statement might not appear that unusual. But it is the attention to detail that Citi’s technology focus affords the bank that goes a long way to explaining its success among corporates and investors.
The second – and more unusual – reason for Citi’s success is the bank’s self-imposed inferiority complex. Rather than revelling in the undeniable fact that Citi is the pre-eminent bank in transaction services, it chooses to view itself as a minnow with a mission to grow.