Tapodyuti Bose, managing director and global head of Digital Channels, Data & Analytics, Treasury & Trade Solutions at Citi, spoke with Global Finance about how digitization is helping businesses remain resilient and operational during the Covid pandemic.
Global Finance: How have digital solutions aided continuity-of-business (COB)?
Tapodyuti Bose: Citi’s Treasury & Trade Solutions business is building a financial platform for digital commerce. We have been digitally transforming our solutions over the last several years to provide a better client experience that is fast, easy and flexible. These digitization efforts were a critical enabler for our clients’ continuity of business in early 2020 and beyond. For example, we saw a fourfold year-on-year increase of digital onboarding while our CitiDirect BE app provided flexibility for our clients to access services from anywhere while they activated COB plans. Usage on both the app and biometrics has doubled this year as a result.
Connectivity solutions such as CitiConnect APIs have also helped companies achieve further digitization and automation by allowing direct integration from their platforms to Citi’s for a broad range of activities, such as retrieving account balances and foreign exchange information, payment-status details as well as transaction-related services, such as initiating payments and request-to-pay transactions and executing against FX contracts. Growth in this area has been high in recent years, further supporting the trend of seamless integration.
Citi’s digital onboarding solutions have enabled clients to set up new accounts and overcome major obstacles imposed by the pandemic, both in the US and worldwide. Clients can complete the process of account opening using electronic signatures with streamlined documentation. Through the digital onboarding experience, Citi helped clients open over 1,000 accounts a month during the first widespread lockdown. We plan to offer the solution in 50 countries by the end of 2020.
GF: Do you see the acceptance of digital by corporates during the pandemic as a driver for greater treasury innovations around the world?
Bose: This pandemic became a catalyst for digital adoption in a number of ways. Covid-19 resulted in a fundamental shift in our relationship with technology. In the past, digitization was about improving efficiency and leveraging new technologies; it was a welcome add-on. Now, having experienced a period when many other forms of engagement and interaction—both across the organization and with other parties—were closed off, digitization has become fundamental. Indeed, it has become the key to all business activity.
Many of our clients who were resistant to change tried new capabilities for the first time, such as digital authentication. Rather than using a hard token to generate one-time passwords for secure access to banking services, they adopted our biometrics or a soft-token smartphone app instead, enabling them to seamlessly access Citi from alternate work locations.
These shifts in behavior are here to stay and will accelerate our clients’ digital-transformation journeys, as well as increase expectations for greater treasury innovations from their banking partners. For example, digital business models require commerce to move faster, with 24/7 availability. Many of our digital-native clients experienced dramatic growth in demand for their services during the pandemic, and our API solutions enabled the embedding of our financial capabilities within their platforms.
GF: How can technology help build corporate resilience?
Bose: Technology can provide automation and flexibility to build corporate resilience. As the integration of business processes and ecosystems increases, seamless and straight-through processing becomes more important. The elimination of manual processes and hand-offs not only drives efficiency, it increases resilience. Even when business-as-usual activities are automated, flexibility is necessary for unusual situations. For example, having online banking or mobile solutions is a critical part of the continuity of business process when primary system-to-system interactions are down.
With that said, a commitment to digitization cannot be solely about continuity planning and resiliency, important though they are. Citi’s goal is to build a platform for the world’s digital commerce. That goal, combined with the new normal of ongoing lockdowns and restricted travel, produces a compelling argument for Citi to redouble its digitization efforts.