‘Mobile First’ Strategy Pays Off, Says Citi Cards CEO Jud Linville

It’s no surprise that companies in every sector are rapidly trying to optimize their mobile strategies to engage consumers on the platform they prefer. A recent poll by Pew found that nearly 80 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, and from shopping to paying bills, it’s now their preferred means to interact with businesses.

At a time when banks and lenders face dwindling consumer loyalty, falling margins and rising competitive pressures, a strong mobile strategy is especially critical in the financial industry.

Citi Cards has been on an “unwavering mission” to transform its business, CEO Jud Linville says. It has recently reduced complexity and costs by streamlining and simplifying its global portfolio by more than 60 percent. The company also revitalized its product portfolio by introducing new cards with more cash back and a higher value proposition to customers.

All of this has been supported by and geared toward a “mobile first” strategy that puts all the access and capabilities consumers need into the palms of their hands. Citi Cards’ “mobile first” strategy is paying off with strong gains in client engagement, preference and satisfaction. “And we’re far from done,” Linville recently told Chief Executive.

“we have an opportunity to redefine how banking looks and feels through a mobile-first strategy.”

Citi launched more than 800 digital features by the end of 2017, and innovated some of the first-to-market mobile features in the industry, Linville says. “Technology is further enabling us to deliver this and set a new standard for customer experience in banking. In essence, it is a bank in your palm,” Linville says.

The strategy was grounded in extensive research and “co-creation sessions” with customers. Citi’s own research indicates the average consumer engages in mobile banking an average of seven days per month. The company had approached it as an opportunity to rethink, redesign and redefine the industry by putting these mobile strategies and the customer at the front of everything they do, Linville says. That shift not only has exceeded consumer demands, but also brought many benefits, including higher customer engagement, greater retention and lower costs. App usage is rising sharply, and last quarter, the bank saw a 22 percent growth in mobile users versus 2016.

Organizations in all sectors are often challenged to implement mobile strategies. One thing Citi has done that is working for it has been to develop design thinking and an agile operating model to continually launch innovative features at a rapid pace. New additions to the app have included the capability to file a dispute, track a replacement card, or add an authorized user, all from a mobile device. Users can even activate their new card simply by taking a photo of it through the app.

“With the rapid rise of digital—particularly mobile—as a centerpiece in our lives, consumers are seeking ease and simplicity like never before…[we have] an opportunity to redefine how banking looks and feels through a mobile-first strategy,” Linville says.

To activate its mobile initiatives, Citi moved to a rapid deployment because they’ve found a disconnect between the digital features consumers say they want and what they actually use, Linville says. For example, research conducted last year found only 3 percent of consumers said they would file a dispute through a mobile device because it would likely be too complex. But because other research showed that mobile was the channel of choice for nearly all banking elements, Citi launched the in-app dispute feature anyway.

The function was ultimately well-received with consumers filing disputes on the app at a rate of nearly five times the initial consumer research projection, Linville says. “It’s important to look at research holistically and engage in educated experimentation in fulfilling customer needs while closely monitoring usage patterns and feedback and adjusting accordingly,” he says.

Craig Guillot
Craig Guillot is a business writer based in New Orleans, La. His work has appeared in Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com and CNBC.com. You can read more about his work at www.craigdguillot.com.

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