An interview with Sridhar Iyer


Sainsbury: What are your priorities for the next 12-18 months?


Iyer: Our customers are at the forefront of all our plans at Citibank and the same goes for digital. In India, we are recognised as the foremost digital bank with the wide range of features and benefits we offer. Already more than 60 per cent of our retail banking customers transact online and we would like to see more of them benefit from the simplicity, security and ease of our banking products online. We will continue to innovate to add products and services to our digital channels to benefit both our customers and partners. As an example of our innovation, we recently launched a mobile payment solution that allows for more than 320 million card customers in India to make debit and credit card payments at the point of payment. Merchant partners using this device for customer payments and collections will be provided with real-time information during the payment and collection process offering an integrated, secured and efficient receivables payment solution.


Sainsbury: What are the key opportunities that you see emerging with regards to digital banking?


Iyer: There are several opportunities emerging in the digital banking space as internet penetration in India grows and the prices of mobile handsets, in particular smart phones devices, and tablets continue to fall. There has been rapid growth in mobile payments in the B2B and B2C segments and mobile transactions are becoming more popular.


Customers are finding new ways to interact and transact online and this brings new possibilities for banks to engage with customers. The emergence of social media as a medium of engagement is showing accelerated growth and we are already interacting with our customers on these platforms. For example, here at Citibank we used Facebook as a tool to connect with customers in India and asked them to vote on a new location for an ATM. There have also been a number of eCommerce initiatives at the bank such as the OMG! Sale. This was India’s first 24-hour online mega sale, offered exclusively to our card customers, which generated excitement amongst our customers and delivered significant sales uplift for our online merchant partners.


At a national level, the push towards a cashless economy will also surely usher in a plethora of digital banking opportunities.


Sainsbury: Where do you see the best traction in finding new customers through e-banking channels?


Iyer: A significant proportion of customers are acquired through our own website. New customers also come through third-party media channels, online partnerships and search. We also see Social Media fast becoming a tool to attract new customers and our dominant position in e-commerce opens more opportunities.


Sainsbury: How do you see digital channels complementing the retail branch network in the future – will Citi’s Smart ATMs become a critical part of its India branch network?


Iyer: Our customers mainly engage with us through digital channels for most of their banking requirements and for information on new products and services. Today, more than 60 per cent of our retail banking customers transact digitally and 65 per cent of them access their monthly statements online. Given that the physical footprint of Citi in India is limited, it is imperative that digital channels and smart banking branches are avenues for user-friendly, secure and easy to access service. We will continue to invest and grow these digital channels.


Sainsbury: How significant will be the role of mobile banking and payments to the majority of your customer base?


Iyer: We anticipate an accelerated growth in mobile banking in the next two years as more people get comfortable with its use. Many of our internet banking customers have already moved to the mobile banking platform because of the convenience of the anytime, anywhere access to banking. Our mobile banking platform allows customers to access their banking, cards, and loan accounts in a single view. Customers can instantly transfer funds, pay utility and credit card bills, recharge pre-paid mobiles, and much more.


The exponential growth in the mobile banking usage that we have seen at Citi in the last two years is testimony to both – customer adoption of the new service and the quality of our mobile banking platform. Given the almost 100 per cent penetration of mobile phones in our country  and the rapid growth of smart phone devises, the  stage is set for mobile banking, mobile payments and location-based services to explode in the next few years.


Sainsbury: What emerging technologies do you have an eye on for future applications in financial services?


Iyer: We are looking at a variety of technologies to grow person-to-person payment transfers, online or mobile payments across B2C and B2B, online personal financial management and an integration of mobile, social media and location-based services.


Sainsbury: What information sources do you consider invaluable for your job, and why?


Iyer: Firstly, it is important to use customer behaviour and feedback metrics to gain customer insights and plan initiatives proactively. It is also important to do competitor scans to benchmark performance and improve constantly. I also refer to global discussion forums and research reports for new and future developments. At Citi, we constantly bounce ideas off one another and that creates an incredible wealth of innovation and knowledge for us to build on.


Sainsbury: If you weren’t working in financial services, what would you be doing?


Iyer: The thrill of a team sport would have led me to cricket. The drama, endurance and perseverance of team sport, the fact that one forges life-long bonds with team mates and opponents, appeals to me enormously. I think this is immensely satisfying.


Sainsbury: What do you consider to be the greatest achievement of your career to date?


Iyer: I had the foresight and courage to launch the e-commerce business for Citibank India in 2000 when the term “e-commerce” was not completely understood by the banking industry. Today, we are one of the leading players in e-commerce and enjoy market leadership in this space. e-Commerce has helped the bank acquire and build valuable relationships. The scale and growth of this industry today makes it one of the most attractive business segments. This is something that very few would have believed could happen a decade ago.


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


Iyer: As a leader, it is important to acknowledge and accept that your team is made of different characters, each with a different set of skills. The ability to bring individuals and their strengths together and create a team that delivers more than the individuals alone could have is a hallmark of a successful team. I would like to be recognised as someone who has achieved this consistently with different teams in varying circumstances.