An Interview with Vikram Sud


FST Media: How are you leveraging big data and analytics to meet customer demand for personalised mobile products?

Sud: By mining data correctly and converting this information to valuable insights, we can leverage big data and analytics to identify what our customers are looking for.

With mobile banking today, many of our services and products remain location based. In the future, we will be able to tailor our offerings according to each mobile banking user’s profile backed with data from customers’ transactions and usage patterns.

With analytics, we also benefit from being able to gauge future patterns including whether or not customers are likely to renew or purchase certain products and services.

We are already collecting and studying this data and we continue to personalise and enhance the Citi client experience on ‘Citi Mobile’, our mobile banking platform.

FST Media: Given the competitive threat from non-bank competitors, is it a viable option for retail banks to focus solely on wholesale and white-labelling?

Sud: What makes us distinctly Citi is what we offer, differing from both direct and indirect competitors. We will continue to create and market our own products and services or work in close partnerships with some financial services providers to bring best-in class value propositions that are relevant to our customers.

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

Sud: We are continuing our focus to enhance the client experience for our customers, regardless of where in the world they may be. We believe a Citi client anywhere is a Citi client everywhere.

In line with the three global trends that play to our strengths as a bank – globalisation, urbanisation and digitisation – our priority is to define and deliver a distinctively industry leading and consistent global Citi client experience for our customers.

These trends reflect the way consumer and corporate customers behave today going by where they choose to be located, their various product and service preferences, and the ways they choose to access our services. From an operations and technology perspective we have a lot of work to do.

Apart from keeping up with regulatory changes we continue to drive standardization and simplification of processes and elimination of legacy platforms. Ultimately, this implies transforming the banking experience by heightening efficiencies and leveraging innovation to make banking simpler, speedier, personalised and more accessible remotely.

FST Media: How is Citi Innovation Lab delivering value to the business, and how are you measuring its success?

Sud: The ‘Citi Innovation Lab’ delivers significant value to our corporate clients through its various innovation portfolios.

In 2013, the lab pursued more than 20 proprietary transactional banking solutions, with half a dozen scheduled for launch within this year and next. Our new ‘CitiDirect Banking Evolution’ nextgeneration electronic banking platform with new capabilities on mobiles and tablets has been well-received by our clients who benefit from the convenience of accessing information and authorising transactions on-the-go.

We are also working on delivering tools and capabilities that enhance customer experiences and support our sales process. In terms of measuring success, each Lab has a detailed scorecard that is well-aligned to our business strategy.

FST Media: How do you see the role of biometric identification playing out in the transformation of the physical bank branch?

Sud: Biometric technology will give us the ability to do cardless transactions, relying on forms of identification including voice authentication, fingerprint authentication and retinal scans. The use of biometrics can help ensure a more seamless, convenient, secure and personalised banking experience.

Although still in the initial stages, the use of biometrics will further encourage the increasing use of remote banking channels.

While biometrics will make banking more convenient, it will help the industry tackle the huge threat of identity and financial fraud.

FST Media: With the growth in Internet based crowdfunding challenging the traditional role of banks, how can banks still stay in business in the long-term?

Sud: While it could be an avenue for choice, especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners, it is a relatively unregulated industry and therefore not necessarily the most secure. Many of today’s crowdfunding sites are self-regulated.

Customers who value trust and prefer face-to-face discussions and the assurance of a secure platform will still turn to banks for funding requirements. Whether serving a big multinational, a private-equity giant or even a small and medium enterprise (SME), banks offer unparalled security, experience and capabilities to ensure fundraising requirements and needs.

The question is not how banks can still stay in business in the long-term. If anything, it is about how the quality or proportion of different types of customers might change as new avenues for funding grow.

FST Media: What is the ‘holy grail’ that technology and innovation are yet to deliver in financial services?

Sud: It is critical that banks focus on two things – customer intimacy and customer trust. Intimacy must be a critical pillar of the bank’s strategy and should reflect the ease of doing business and the customer experience. Customer trust goes well beyond technology with security, access and availability becoming more and more critical in maintaining the trust equation.

FST Media: How do you switch off and achieve work/life balance?

Sud: I believe work life balance is mostly in the mind – having the ability to ‘switch on and off’ as required helps me manage that balance. Those who cannot switch off after work will struggle regardless how much leisure time they have.

It is important to do the things you enjoy after work or on weekends with gusto and passion. I try to find new things to do and experiment every once in a while so that I am not bored. Extrovert or introvert, indoor or outdoor, physical or mental, the options are never ending. Make it your passion. If you enjoy your work, have a great team, are well organised and know how to delegate then work life balance will happen naturally.

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

Sud: I would like to be remembered for building a high-performing team that is customer focused and always open to change. I would also like to be known for having helped people grow and take on bigger roles.