The thing you notice about Tracey Weber right away is her ability to localize the universal, to express her job shepherding a vast multichannel mobile banking strategy in a series of simple, enthusiastic anecdotes.
"Here's a personal example," she said over the phone in early May. "You get a message that you need to do something, a credit card bill is due in a few days or the mortgage payment is due. But rather than hoping you remember that later when you get back to your desk or your computer, on a mobile app you can take care of that right away," says Weber, managing director of consumer and Internet mobile banking in North America at Citigroup and one of the driving forces behind a series of smartphone and tablet applications that have garnered high ratings from users.
In describing more than a year's worth of rollouts spanning services as varied as payments, remote deposit capture and the development and design of the first Kindle Fire app, Weber consistently translates enterprisewide strategies into a series of object examples that demonstrate how smartphones and tablets are used generally for business and for leisure, and how that results in an outcome that marries financial functionality, creative design and user tastes. In a discussion of gamification and content sharing, for example: "My daughter and I play Scrabble on tablets all the time. There's an interesting opportunity in this for financial services to leverage that ability of the tablet to easily connect you with someone else for financial purposes."
As Citi's mobile strategy has evolved, old-school project management has been replaced by agile techniques to enable quick response. Weber has helped bring market research, analysis, outside partners and relatively small cross-disciplinary internal development teams together to act quickly as new digital opportunities, such as GPS, deposits or personal financial management arrive. "When you are out doing something during the normal course of the day, we want to make sure we are continually there with functions that make banking accessible and informative," she says.
The inclination to match consumer comfort with new technology comes naturally for Weber, who joined Citigroup in 2010 after working as an executive in positions that frequently combined digital commerce with mass retail. Like Frank Eliason, who was brought in from Comcast to punch up Citi's social media strategy, Weber brings a different industry perspective. Weber, who holds a bachelor of arts from Harvard University and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, has been executive vice president, textbooks and digital education for Barnes & Noble, and she was North American chief operating officerat Travelocity, where she oversaw air, car and last-minute deals.
"Having been in e-commerce for a long time helps me in this environment. Since I came from a consumer-oriented business, I came to Citi with the idea of putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers," she says.
There's more to that strategy than intuition, a resume and personal anecdotes. At Citigroup, Weber has helped introduce a number of mobile and tablet apps, helped by teams of internal staff that vary in expertise - such as marketing, technology and risk - and external partners such as Fjord, the consulting brains behind digital content from companies such as the British Broadcasting Corp. and Qualcomm, and the host of seminars such as "Future Female, the Transformational Tablet" - for a "Finnish network of like-minded women inspired by new ideas in the world of digital opportunity."
In early 2011, Citi introduced a mobile banking platform that allowed users to check balances, control cash flows, pay bills, transfer funds, access rewards and find local ATMs and branches. Other additions soon followed based on what the bank learned about use patterns, performance, customer feedback and an over-arching business strategy to add more digital service and reduce paper. The bank added social media and click-to-call/chat via Twitter. Citigroup was one of the first banks to engage customers that mention Citi on Twitter, even if the customers don't reach out directly to the bank, and it also allows customers to switch from Twitter to nonpublic communications by computer or smartphone. Citi also launched the first consumer banking app for the iPad, and was the first bank to offer access to Twitter customer support via its tablet app.
And along with Bank of America, Citi was also among the initial banks to offer a Kindle Fire app. Other new recent additions are mobile deposit capture and person-to-person payments.
While the bank didn't reveal actual numbers of users, there has been strong growth. There has been an 80% increase in mobile users and a 170% increase in mobile money transfers in less than a year. Weber attributes the success to the development teams, which allow the bank to provide new capabilities and make consumers aware of the benefits of mobile banking in a well-timed way. "The speed to market is very important. Mobile tech is changing so quickly. And you're learning about the customer needs. That's the benefit of being out there quickly. You can respond to how customers are engaging the product," she says.