An interview with Rahul Joshi


Citi’s Head of Consumer Banking Operations in Asia Pacific speaks with FST Media about how Citi’s focus on digital banking is helping to engage a growing Gen Y customer base.

FST Media: What are your priorities for the next 12 to 18 months? 

Joshi: In Citi’s Consumer Banking business, we are focused on delivering a consistent remarkable client experience regardless of where our customers are located. We are concentrating our efforts on transforming the banking experience by leveraging technology and innovation to make banking quicker, more convenient, and readily accessible for our customers. Customers today are digitally-savvy and to serve them well, we have to capitalize on the pervasive use of smart phones and technology gadgets in the market. We are barely scratching the surface of the potential of digital banking and so our efforts continue in that direction. With 12 of Citi’s 24 Consumer Banking markets located in Asia, we are leading multiple projects focused on transforming the end-to-end client experience across our various banking channels and businesses, in addition to augmenting our digital banking capabilities. 

FST Media: What will be the biggest challenge for Citi in Asia Pacific over the next five years? 

Joshi: The financial services industry will continue to be defined by uncertainty and challenges in the operating environment including increased regulatory requirements. Competition is looking different with more non-bank players entering the financial services space. We have to rethink banking and innovate to put us at the forefront of a tough industry. We are defining what can and needs to be done better while encouraging a culture that strongly supports the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.

FST Media: What strategies is Citi looking at to engage Gen Y consumers in Asia Pacific?

Joshi: Citi’s focus on digital banking fits well in engaging Gen Y consumers who especially expect speed, ease and convenience when it comes to their banking. They use multiple channels and appreciate the ability to use multiple devices to bank on the go. They primarily bank through apps and mobile-friendly platforms. At Citi, we are well aware of this and we have adopted a strong mobile banking presence. Everything that we do has to have a mobile element to it and, on top of that, we place offerings that are truly of value on these platforms. To retain the personal touch that Gen Y customers also appreciate when making financial decisions, we integrate the human element with technology. Our digital platforms can connect users to banking representatives through features such as mobile chat.

FST Media: What do you see non-banking competitors bringing to the market that the traditional banks have yet to deliver? 

Joshi: All the innovations that are being rapidly adopted are designed to help individuals consume various services that make their lives simple and convenient. Examples range from car rides to online content to shopping experiences. These are not traditional banking innovations, but central to this is the idea of providing a simple, secure and convenient payment vehicle, which is a valuable service and expertise that banks can offer.

FST Media: How effective are mobile platforms as a customer acquisition channel? 

Joshi: Mobile platforms are an effective customer acquisition channel. Mobile, as has been mentioned, has taken off tremendously. As an illustration, in 2012, Citi had one million digitally active customers in Asia. By early 2014, this number had reached seven million and today, we have over eight million digitally active users in the region. In Asia, 30 per cent of credit card applications come through from mobile channels and we will see this continue to rise across different products and services. 

FST Media: What will digital payments look like in Asia Pacific in 2020? 

Joshi: Digital payments will be about being able to transfer cash, pay bills, and transacting through mobile devices in a wireless and instantaneous manner. While that does happen today, the scale of wireless payments is going to be far bigger. Near Field Communications technology is revolutionising how we manage transactions and by 2020, I am certain that this technology will be everywhere. Our smartphone will be our digital wallet.  

FST Media: What do you see as the best way to utilize social media within retail banking?

Joshi: At the very basic level, social media provides a platform to monitor issues and to promote products and services. However, given its reach and strong potential for client engagement, it is a platform that can be better leveraged. In retail banking, social media can help banks understand customer behaviors and preferences. These platforms can also help create a differentiated customer experience by serving as channels for two-way bank-client communication. Against these seemingly endless possibilities is also the crucial need to ensure security. Whether social media channels can be as effective and secure as our existing banking channels is a question that many in the industry are keenly exploring. 

FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of technological innovation and determine which ideas will be pursued?

Joshi: At Citi, we have a global program aimed at encouraging a culture of innovation by enabling colleagues to collaborate and pursue their spirit of inquiry. With this program, we enable colleagues to set up teams across the bank and support each other in developing one big idea from conceptualization to fruition through financial and other resources. We strongly believe these pockets of innovation across the bank will enable us to compete head-to-head with competitors, especially disruptive innovators, while enabling us to build a stronger culture of innovation where colleagues are not afraid and are empowered to pursue big, radical and impactful ideas. 

FST Media: What are the key ingredients to building high performing teams and maximising organisational effectiveness?

Joshi: I have been privileged to be part of Citi over the last 25 years and have learned a lot about both teamwork and leadership. Common objectives, mutual respect and trust are the foundation of any successful team. When everyone has alignment in direction and clarity about their role, they can genuinely contribute to the team’s objectives. This builds relationships based on trust, helping us to create an environment where everyone thrives. A good leader is self-aware, authentic, values talent, empowers people and promotes a culture of ethics, meritocracy and accountability. The best examples of good leadership and high performing teams embody all of these characteristics.

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy this wish to be remembered for, what is yours? 

Joshi: I treasure the relationships I have built with colleagues around the world over the years, which have made working at Citi rewarding and fun. I have had the privilege to work for exemplary leaders in Citi and wish to pay it forward. If there is one thing I want to be remembered for, it is for growing and developing the next generation of leaders.