Citi says it has shifted onboarding for existing trade and treasury clients to a completely digital experience in its biggest markets.
“We process $4 trillion in payments every day,” said Sanjeev Jain, Asia-Pacific head of digital channels and data at Citi Trade and Treasury Solutions. “This needs to be fully digital, because even a small fraction of manual intervention creates a lot of friction.”
Citi TTS provides cash and management and trade finance services to multinational corporations, financial institutions, and public sector organizations.
Jain says serving this clientele has moved on from just transactions to data-based services. Citi has a large wallet share of global treasury-related business, which gives it a view of flows. Aggregating and parsing such insights can be turned into value-added services for those clients, from benchmarking against competitors to ways to save on cost.
Digitizing what you can
Some aspects of the business are still difficult to create wholly digital solutions, such as liquidity management and cashflow visibility. These involve analyzing multiple sources of funding from many other banks, so it’s difficult for a single institution to acquire enough data. Brand-new corporate clients still have to go through the usual customer due diligence.
What the bank can do, however, is remove manual processes, starting with client onboarding, which is often painful and paper-intensive. Banks have often treated a multinational entering a new market as a brand-new customer, because their back offices can’t manage existing information.
“Our network is over 100 countries,” Jain said. “This breadth has traditionally been our advantage, but it could also be a disadvantage from an onboarding perspective.”
The bank set out to digitize everything so that a customer adding a banking account to support operations in a new market could have it live in as quickly as two days. Citi first rolled this out in the U.S. and now has 41 markets automated, including ten in Asia.
“You can’t be partly on paper,” Jain said. “The mindset towards new clients had to change to ‘show me you know me’ and to ‘data not documents’.” After working with regulators, the bank’s know-your-customer experts, and partners in its trade and treasury team, Citi can now leverage existing data on a client to open accounts across multiple markets, with the necessary adjustments where local regulations require something bespoke.
What’s now automated
Jain says the COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the process, although it has been in the works for about two years. Earlier this year, for example, a client was able to open a new account in China while working from home. Just a few months prior, they would have needed to courier paper documents bearing a company chop.
Digitizing the process has also led to a lot more business: Citi TSS says in the first quarter of the year, it opened more than 1,000 accounts digitally, nearly 3.5x more accounts than the previous quarter. Specifically in Asia it has doubled the number of clients connected via API.
You can’t be partly on paperSanjeev Jain, Citi
Now the process relies on biometrics, more like a consumer-banking app. Jain says the bank now only allows for digital onboarding in markets where the service has gone live, with some case-by-case exceptions.
TTS clients, once their account is open, get access to basic online banking, either via desktop or mobile. Other Citi solutions can be deployed allowing online banking customers to make payments in real-time via API connections, among other services.
Jain says the push to digitize has made the bank more willing to work with third-party fintech companies, and not rely entirely on its traditional preference to build its systems.
It works with High Radius, a U.S. artificial-intelligence fintech, to match and reconcile client payments and receivables, and DocuSign for smoothing KYC processes.
“We’ve seen fintechs bring powerful solutions for specific customer pain points,” Jain said. The firm is also working with A.I. companies to detect patterns in payments and cyber risks.