INTERVIEW: Citi Private Bank Raises Mobile Banking Game With Stress-Tester, "Digital Vault"

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 24 March 2014

INTERVIEW: Citi Private Bank Raises Mobile Banking Game With Stress-Tester,

One of the stronger financial sector trends in recent times has been that of the “mobile revolution”. We live in the age of the app. A new example has come from Citi Private Bank and its In View platform.

One of the stronger financial sector trends in recent times has been that of the “mobile revolution”. We live in the age of the app. A new example has come from Citi Private Bank and its In View platform.

When your correspondent was invited by Citi Private Bank recently to attend a gala evening to launch the Art14 series of arts exhibitions and events, visitors to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London’s Kensington district were presented with an intriguing presentation pack – including an embedded video presentation that rolls when one opens the cover – about the new service. It is now available on a global basis, from the Apple app store. The slick video describing how it works is a notch above the usual fare when it comes to bank marketing for such things.

This publication spoke to Dena Brumpton, Citi Private Bank chief operating officer, about In View, and how this sort of technology fits with a world in which banks are trying to juggle rising client demands and rising regulatory costs.

In View is a platform that, among other features, has a “digital vault” in which clients can store key information documents and other data, while managers can also rapidly find information on their clients so that issues can be handled anywhere in the world. Portfolio and reporting tools have the same 24-hour accessibility – vital for clients who, typically, are entrepreneurs with an international work pattern, Brumpton told this publication.

“The Vault’s development turns a pain point for clients into a useful portal for their key documents, and is particularly useful for people who travel a lot,” she said.

The idea of such a vault was driven by talking to clients about what would really add value for them, Brumpton continued. “In developing Citi Private Bank In View, our goal was to look at every touch point for the client experience and ask ourselves how to improve it. We see it as a client engagement tool.  In View is a platform that is much more comprehensive and powerful than an app,” she said.

“It [In View] allows for a much more open dialogue between the client and the coverage team,” Brumpton said.

One highlight of the platform, she said, is that clients can stress-test prospective investment strategies against a range of different market conditions.

“Our clients are typically entrepreneurs; with first-generation wealth and are very mobile. They need access to information wherever they are in the world, at any time,” she said. Meanwhile, in July, she said, the bank hopes to roll out a full-scale, integrated video tool to go on the system, which will also carry added features in the months/years ahead.

What’s in it for the bank?
With all this technical wizardry, the test of its effectiveness is whether it enables Citi Private Bank, a firm that focuses on ultra high net worth clients, to win a bigger share of the total wealth management pie and retain those clients who might have been wooed by competitors. With the average cost/income ratio of the global wealth management industry still in the mid to upper 70s in percentage terms (source: Scorpio Partnership), managers will want to know if such platforms can improve margins. And inevitably, that raises the question of where such tech leaves managers. Does it force them out of the picture or reduce the need to have so many of them?

“The driver for this is to improve client experience. We have invested any saved money back into the client experience…of course there are efficiencies we have gained. This is not intended to ever reduce the amount of time with bankers and the client,” Brumpton said.

A spokesperson for Citi Private Bank said the US firm isn’t disclosing the cost of development, but it did say it has redeployed budget from other areas such as maintaining legacy systems in developing In View.

The cost of In View is likely to be relatively small, however, when set aside the scale of IT spending among financial services. IT spending in financial services globally will exceed $430 billion in 2014 and go beyond a whopping $500 billion by 2020. (Source: American Banker). In Europe, a study of 300 banks in 66 countries, carried out by IT supplier Infosys and banking association Efma, pointed to how innovation in IT is a driver of spending by banks. Some 70 per cent of banks said they will expand spending on innovation, with the mobile and online channels seen as the most important delivery channels to invest in. Some  93 per cent of banks will offer mobile payment services and 89 per cent plan to offer bespoke tablet banking applications to customers in the next three years. (Source: ComputerWeekly)

What clients want, and what RMs want
Citi’s In View can be seen, perhaps, as how banks are trying to resolve a mismatch between how clients view the importance of relationship managers, and how RMs see their role. At the recent Breakfast Briefing conference organised by the publisher of this news service, it was argued by one panellist that there is a dichotomy that can occur between clients and advisors if there is no communication of needs. While clients may only want to be contacted in emergencies or for a specific event, advisors expect to contact their clients between four to five times a year in person. (To view more of the comments on this and related issues, see the Breakfast Briefing item here.) It may be that technology such as In View gives banks’ business leaders a much clearer idea of how many people they really need to manage clients in person.

The US bank certainly isn’t the only private bank of its type to have developed mobile technology of this type; DBS in Singapore has a suite of apps that use video and visual aids for clients, for example. The Northern Trust Private Passport ®, is another example as its Wealth Path app ®. The levels of market data and portfolio analytics will vary from app to app (benchmarking these apps in the wealth space remains a new area).

Of course, with any new tech, there can be concerns about risks, notably security breaches, not to mention such prosaic incidents as what happens if a mobile device is broken, or worse, is stolen. Firms are still debating just how much data to put in the mobile channel. In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority, for example, has launched a wide-ranging review on the mobile banking industry amid concerns about the robustness of these channels and their ability to withstand security attacks, fraudsters and deal with plain ordinary mistakes by users.

But for all the concerns that may linger around any new technology, for the doubters, it is worth bearing in mind that the Internet itself has been around for only a few decades and yet has already had a dramatic impact on sectors such as music and book retailing, as well as tourism and airline bookings. The banking industry is seeing the impact already and it makes sense that when it comes to the big private bank players such as Citigroup, they also embrace this technology not just with care, but with a bit of style.

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