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How Citizens Bank Is Focusing on the Customer Experience of the Future

By Lamont Young| Citizens Bank EVP, Head of Digital


Young and his team are responsible for digital technology, mobile and online banking, e-commerce, social media, digital analytics,  innovation, and FinTech relationships for Citizens Bank. Young’s 20-year career has seen him as the founder of start up organizations and leading Digital, content, and Marketing  for Fortune 500 companies in the consumer goods and financial services industries. Young received his B.S. in Marketing from Penn State University and an M.B.A. in International Business from Winthrop University in South Carolina

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We have seen the hospitality, entertainment and transportation sectors – among many others – completely disrupted by the digital transformation. Big box retailers have been forced to adapt or go out of business.

So what about banking? Banks can survive and even thrive if they make the right moves.

Today, all customers seek easy access, speed and efficiency. Customer expectations of banks, informed by their experiences with digital natives such as Google and Amazon, are significantly higher. Customers simply expect the same convenience and accessibility managing their money as they do in any other aspect of their lives.

growing number of FinTechs have recognized how digital technology and finance could marry up in certain areas, creating products to address the evolving needs of customers. However, they lack scale and want no part of the regulation that governs more traditional financial institutions. Many banks have viewed FinTechs as disruptors, but smart banks see the value their innovation can bring to customers and are moving decisively to integrate cutting-edge outside technology into their offerings.

Whether by partnering with FinTechs or developing their own solutions, most banks are moving quickly to invest in digital capabilities that provide similar kinds of frictionless customer experiences that better resonate in an increasingly digital marketplace.

The pace of technological change is accelerating, but as customers are using new channels to access their finances, smart banks are rising to the challenge and providing customers with the best tools to help them reach their potential.

Embracing innovation

MassChallenge started in the shadow of the Great Recession, but co-founders John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam had great vision and were thinking big from the very beginning, welcoming more than 100 startups to then-Mayor Tom Menino’s “Innovation District” in their first year.

The program has grown rapidly over the past nine years, expanding internationally and adding programs for specific industry sectors. Citizens Bank is proud to be one of the founding partners in the new MassChallenge FinTech program, which connects financial services firms with startups that are working to meet the evolving needs of banking and financial services customers.

Citizens seeks the best technology solutions through external relationships to help power and accelerate its data-enabled strategy. We welcome smart innovation, and by partnering with FinTech players, the bank can often execute with greater speed and agility.

For example, Citizens was the first large regional bank to offer a fully integrated digital banking and wealth advisory offering.  We see this service, called SpeciFi, as a great platform that makes investing more accessible to a larger set of customers.

We also launched a digital small business lending platform, in collaboration with Fundation, that enables small businesses to quickly and easily apply for loans and lines of credit online.

And more recently, the bank launched Citizens Access, a nationwide direct-to-consumer digital deposit platform that offers attractive rates in an easy-to-use format.

The bank’s Treasury Solutions team is also currently working with its corporate clients to digitize traditionally paper-based trade processes, which leads to increased efficiencies and reduced costs.

It really is a matter of a holistic approach

Of course, it’s crucial for banks to make sure FinTech partnerships are solving a problem for their customers and are not just being done for their own sake.

Partnerships with FinTechs are not simply marriages of convenience, but reflect a genuine cultural shift for banks. A holistic and comprehensive approach to innovation will not only create a fast, seamless digital experience for customers, but a more efficient and creative company culture.

recent poll by Temkin ranked Citizens among the top banks in customer satisfaction and most improved. Citizens Bank is also the fastest improving/growing bank in JD Power’s annual banking report.

Citizens has found that keeping pace with technological change requires an “all-hands-on-deck” approach. Smart thinking and great technologies, whether from inside an organization or from a third party, will always represent an opportunity for growth and deliver greater value to customers.

As it builds a mindset focused on innovation, Citizens is developing incentives, programs and applications which, ultimately, are removing friction from customer transactions.  By leveraging innovation, the bank is setting the stage for a streamlined, technologically savvy approach to financial services.

Within the bank, Citizens is working to align the right people and capabilities by partnering with IBM on “Myca,” a virtual coach that leverages data and cognitive computing to link business needs with employee aspirations and career development. Citizens is one of only five companies in the world pursuing this cutting-edge AI experience.

Our new state-of-the-art campus in Johnston, R.I. – completed last year -- also serves as a construction, and technological, model for the workplace of the future. The campus has lead to greater teamwork, and collaboration among colleagues in an environmentally sustainable setting.

Last summer, Citizens even took a page from MassChallenge and others by getting into the startup competition game itself by hosting a Hackathon in which participants vied for a $10,000 prize to solve some of the thorniest issues currently faced by banks.

The bottom line is trust

Beyond simply having the latest technology, Citizens’ determination to enhance the customer experience through innovation has positioned the bank as an essential consumer and commercial partner. The ongoing digital transformation allows the bank to better understand customers and more effectively deliver tailored advice, ideas and solutions. We want to be part of the day-to-day future of our customers and provide actionable insights so they can make better financial decisions as we move to a digital future.

But even in our digital-first world, nothing replaces trust. And while the digital revolution in banking is under way, there are surely many major changes just on the horizon. By staying on top of the competition and constantly evaluating external solutions and opportunities, forward-looking banks can find the right model for modern consumers looking to manage their money.

Moving forward, it’s apparent that while technology has certainly changed, customer expectations of banking haven’t. Fundamentally, customers want a trusted partner. Smart banks have been able to retain what has been best about banking while also offering the kind of digital experiences that big tech companies have been providing to create the model for the customer experience of the future.

More information

To learn more about Citizens Bank or our other products please call 1-888-333-5145, or Ask a Citizen at your nearest Citizens Bank branch.

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