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Asia's best digital bank 2019: Citi

Awards for Excellence 2019

has long impressed for its front-end digital excellence, with streamlined and clever apps aplenty, and for its ability to integrate itself into the lives of its customers at every level through a string of partnerships across the region.

We have always asked: what does it mean for the bottom line? DBS can demonstrate the difference – one reason it has won this award three years in a row – can Citi?

Now, it can. In Asia Pacific, digital initiatives have led to operating efficiency improving by 234 basis points between the 2018 and 2019 financial years (based on first-quarter numbers), and the 7% growth in consumer revenues, from $7.2 billion to $7.8 billion, was underpinned by a 50% increase in digital revenues from the region. Gonzalo Luchetti is head of global consumer banking, Asia Pacific and EMEA

Digitalization is also the principle reason why net income in the wealth management and cards division grew 10% in the first quarter of 2019 to $416 million quarter on quarter.

These effects have been coming for a while, as Citi has sought to keep up with and even pre-empt the digital preferences of its customers. Some 71% of Citi’s digital customer base in Asia is actively using mobile now, and 44% of credit cards are acquired online. The bank has 7.5 million digitally active customers across Asia and over 5.4 million mobile active customers; Citi has not only positioned itself for this, but helped it to happen.

Gonzalo Luchetti_160x186
Gonzalo Luchetti

Citi’s range of partners around the region is renowned – and its cards tie-up with Grab appears to have survived that group’s deal with UOB. New partners in Asia include Apple and Spotify. Citi card customers in five countries can use their points or miles for instant redemptions on Spotify premiums. It all builds up to a sense that Citi is fully entrenched in modern consumer lives.

Beyond consumer, digital innovation is also instrumental in institutional, corporate and wealth businesses, and helped the TTS team win the transaction services award this year. Last year saw a 20% increase in the number of clients using CitiDirect BE, an institutional banking platform, while a mobile app version of it was launched in seven Asian markets, five of them with biometric authentication. 

The innovation lab in Singapore continues to generate new ideas: a new electronic FX pricing and trading engine is underway with the Monetary Authority of Singapore to improve price transparency, and Citi Ventures has taken stakes in 67 startups to date.

Plus, and this is important, the apps are pretty cool. One Euromoney saw allows currency accounts to be opened in 9 currencies instantly, and funds to be transferred to the right account ahead of a trip, so that when you go to Poland, say, you can use your debit card and withdraw the funds you put there without being hit by currency charges. 

And a new white-labelled venture with Paytm in India demonstrates the bank’s willingness to team up with people who look a lot like competitors.