An interview with Sanjeev Mehra


Citi’s Managing Director and Global Head of Product Development of Global Consumer Technology sheds light on what’s next for Citi’s Smart Banking platforms.

FST Media: What is the ‘holy grail’ that is yet to be delivered in financial services?

Mehra: The holy grail in financial services has transformed over the years from being a bank that simply manages a customer’s finances to all about a remarkable customer experience. At Citi, everything that we do has to take into consideration what our customers want. 

As digitisation transforms the world and lifestyle of consumers, in addition to playing an increasingly important role in every aspect of their life, financial institutions will have to find a fine balance in tailoring their products and services in order to meet the changing behaviour, lifestyle and financial needs of the consumers, with the utmost simplicity of the experience.

FST Media: In terms of key products and initiatives, what are your priorities for the next 12 to 18 months?

Mehra: Nothing is more important than the security of our customers’ personal information. As such, when we come up with any initiatives or develop any new products, security is of our utmost consideration. 

We are currently looking at biometric capabilities including mobile banking app fingerprint authorisation, as well as both passive and active voice biometric authentication. We are working on some of these projects, which we will share when they are ready to be rolled-out. 

Fintech is another top priority for us and across the globe we are working with fintech innovators and startups to develop solutions that will accelerate transformational approaches to the banking industry which in turn will enable us to deliver higher growth, more enriching jobs and better services to our customers. 

The third big area for us is ‘remarkable customer journeys’. These are experiences in product purchases or service usage that are relevant, timely, intuitive, simple and integrated to life events.

FST Media: What’s next for Citi’s Smart Banking platforms?

Mehra: Citi has a rich history and culture of innovation. The bank has implemented many initiatives to change the banking experience for customers by leveraging innovation and digital technology, which has transformed the way people live, play and work. One such success has been our ‘smart banking’ concept to bring a more efficient, transparent and personable self-service banking experience to the consumers.

In this area, our focus is mobile-first and mobile-centric propositions, as well as customer experiences and subsequently applications to support those experiences.

Just a few months ago, Citi launched its Citi Mobile Challenge in Asia Pacific, as part of our drive to foster digital and mobile innovation in banking. Citi Mobile Challenge is a next-generation accelerator that combines a virtual hackathon with an incubator, a worldwide network of fintech experts and Citi’s unparalleled global sponsors and clients to discover solutions across more than 100 markets. Citi made available a variety of APIs from the bank and other leading financial and technology companies to help developers create real-world innovations that could function with existing Citi technology.

Citi Mobile Challenge in Asia Pacific follows successful launches in EMEA in 2015 and in Latin America and the US in 2014. Across the three programs, Citi received nearly 2,000 submissions from more than 100 countries. The winners have been recently announced, and Citi is currently working with them to launch pilot solutions for the consumer and business clients in various markets including Singapore.

FST Media: How would you define disruption?

Mehra: Disruption is akin to a ‘Black Swan’, an event or action which has historically been beyond the realm of normal expectations or extremely hard to predict, but has a massively disproportionate impact on the environment. This impact has the power to change the rules of the game forever. In hindsight, disruptive events or actions seem to be the most logical things ever to happen. 

Today, disruption is present across a variety of industries – Digital photography and Kodak, Uber, Bitcoin, iTunes and the iPhone, as well as many others.

Furthermore, the mass penetration and convergence of mobile smart devices, high speed internet and cloud computing is the perfect ecology for disruptive ideas and propositions to emerge with rapid frequency.

FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in your team?

Mehra: We encourage a culture of innovation by fostering a culture of internal entrepreneurship or ‘Intrapreneurship’ with embedded, competitive centres of innovation. This involves high potential talent in empowered, autonomous and self-organising teams. We also promote the values of ‘build, test and learn,’ encouraging our team to fail fast and learn fast. This helps us to nurture a culture of high tolerance for failure as well as fostering creativity. To achieve this, we need to have a multi-modal and multi-speed organisation structure which is backed by a similar technology architecture. In this way, our team can be organised for rapid and adaptive iterations at scale. The lines between business, operations and IT are continuously blurred.

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours? 

Mehra: French writer and pioneering aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, once said that perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

I would like to be remembered as a leader who is a source of motivation and inspiration to those who work with me. I want to build world class talent and leave behind an organisation with a DNA of striving to be best-in-class, self-disrupting, adaptive, open, connected and delivering at scale