Citi Says Winning the End Customer Experience Is Future Battleground for Banks

Institutional inertia is real, and it’s holding some incumbent businesses back while digital upstarts flourish.

This situation is particularly acute for financial institutions (FIs) that find themselves facing an ever-shifting ecosystem full of FinTechs, Banking-as-a-Service providers, and more 21st century competitors crowding what used to be a relatively staid landscape.

That’s why William Artingstall, global co-head of cross-border payments and receivables at Citi, tells PYMNTS he is focused on “enabling Citi’s clients to stay competitive and nimble” in the wake of some of today’s changing expectations.

“Historically, it was just banks competing with banks. But increasingly, FinTechs and other disruptive entrants are leveraging solutions like tokenization and other innovations and competitive offerings, such as those that can utilize multiple currencies or provide new capabilities, which can be costly and complex for banks to quickly stand up,” Artingstall said.

And competing effectively in an environment where their own peers are no longer the sole competitors means that for traditional banks to survive (and even thrive) in an environment where they are facing competition from nearly every avenue, they need automatic and embedded access to the next big thing — from currency processing to cross-border and real-time payments.

“Looking to 2024, I think we’ll continue to see demand for financial institutions to innovate, to meet their end consumers’ changing expectations and needs,” Artingstall said. “We’re going to see a continued need for, and speed of, processing in cross-border payments as well as access to always-on payment capabilities as that becomes even more important with more and more industries shifting to 24/7 business models.”

He added, “I think the fight for managing the end customer experience is really where the battle lines are being drawn.”

Unlocking and Embedding New Capabilities

As part of that focus, Citi recently launched a set of four embedded payment solutions for FI clients designed to improve the client experience for their end users.

“These solutions are firstly part of our ‘enable bank’ strategy to help them respond to what is an increasingly multifaceted competitive landscape,” Artingstall said.

They include extending the capabilities of Citi’s 24/7 USD clearing for FIs to include payments to companies and individuals; confirmed value transfer (CVT), which provides cost transparency around initiating a transaction when there are multiple parties involved in processing a USD cross-border payment; the ability to initiate payments in over 70 currencies from a single USD account; and access to Swift Go.

“We did a survey a little while ago with several of our major bank clients, and what we found was really they were trying to solve a couple of innovation pieces, which were centered around speed, cost efficiency and transparency — these were the fundamental drivers of how they saw the future of client experience and innovation,” Artingstall explained.

New, embedded solutions can play a crucial role in enabling financial institutions to drive digital transformation in their operations by allowing banks to access and provide the table stakes of next-generation payments with minimal implementation work.

Streamlining the adoption process results in an almost immediate impact, allowing FIs to stay relevant — and competitive — in an ever-changing market.

Embracing Future Digital Trends Starts Today 

The financial industry will continue to witness significant shifts and innovations, making it imperative that financial actors both new and old equip themselves to compete effectively.

Any upcoming innovations will be “underpinned by those three pillars of cost, speed and transparency,” Artingstall said.

“We are going to continue to see a number of financial institutions find the power of APIs to drive those underlying experiences, as well as a number of different new methods of payment where they’re looking at opportunities for driving new revenue streams, finding new opportunities to engage clients in new ways, and really up the ante a little bit more against the increasingly multifaceted competitive landscape,” he said.

Automatic access to Swift Go and embedded solutions like CVT and 24/7 USD clearing services are designed to empower FIs to win within tomorrow’s hyper-globalized and digitized world, where the operating landscape is untethered by borders — or least wants to be.

“The app-based environment and platform-based environment has really driven very high expectations,” Artingstall said. “And as a result, the way in which you win clients over is through new experiences … there is so much innovation taking place because we as consumers are increasingly driving experiences in our financial and professional lives that we ourselves see on a day-to-day basis.”