Citi Plots its Mobile Strategy for Commercial Cards

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Citigroup (C) is expanding mobile alerts for commercial cards to several countries outside the U.S. The bank considers the SMS alerts a vital part of its strategy to provide ubiquitous access to financial information in any location. The bank, which has more than 65,000 corporate clients and issues commercial cards in more than 100 countries, has launched its global messaging service to Citi card holders and program administrators in 66 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Alerts are available in 15 languages, and users can select the time zone, day and hour when they would like to receive alerts.

The international service grew out of a similar service in the U.S. that was launched late last year. The U.S. service is being upgraded to include on demand alerts, including the ability to check account balances or recently processed transactions by typing in a short command. All of these alert services are a prelude to much broader mobile financial services that are in development for commercial cards.

In a recent interview with BTN, Manish Kohli, managing director and global head of commercial cards for Citigroup, discussed the new alerts and global mobile services for commercial cards.

BTN: How do the alerts fit into the bank's larger strategy to connect with commercial card clients?

Kohli: We are looking to build out new methods of communication with our large cardholder base globally. We first launched SMS alerts in the U.S. last fall, advising people that payments are due or are past due.

What's the use case for commercial card alerts in different regions?

There are a number of features that aid travel and entertainment expense. Our cardholders travel quite a lot, and we want to be able to get information to them without relying on mail or the internet. We've also placed options that give cardholders the ability to choose to be notified, so you don't get the alert in the middle of the night.

How is the bank managing the technology to drive the multi-national deployment?

The bank has developed a single global infrastructure and platform. This single platform manages all of our data and interactions with cardholders, [and it provides] consistency in processing. Because of that consistency, if we develop or make an investment in technology for one market, such as the U.S., we have the capability to roll out in another market.

What if there are legal differences in a specific country?

We will do a legal check or a compliance check for a particular country and tailor the product. But we can use the same tech structure, so the same tech investment allows us to take what we have built and use it in different markets …CitiCommerical Cards works with regulatory agencies around the world to ensure that its products are fully compliant with all regulations.

What are you working on for future deployments in the commercial alerts program?

We will continue to build out more alerts and launch in additional countries over the next 12 months. Citi is looking at the latter half of the year to add more alerts for fraudulent transactions, and we're also looking to build more two-way alerts in more markets. We are planning to launch a mobile browser application to take some of the capabilities that we have on the internet side and move them onto the smartphone. …[and we] are currently developing a mobile site for our commercial card clients so they will be able to access our online portal, CitiManager anywhere, anytime from their mobile devices.

What are some of the web products that are used by commercial card users, and what would make them attractive in mobile?

Our commercial card clients access a variety of card program management and reporting tools as well as online statements through our single sign-on portal [CitiManager]. We have been working on building a streamlined mobile site to optimize the experience our clients have when looking to take care of simple account management activities while on the go. The offering will be coming out in the next 12 months across the globe.

Do you have mobile payments for corporate cardholders, and are there new features planned in mobile payments?

We are currently exploring mobile payment functionality for our cardholders. As mobile payments become more prevalent, especially with consumers, we expect rising demand on the commercial side as well. All of our initiatives are driven by our clients' needs today and those we anticipate in the future. So mobile payments will definitely play a role in our future offerings.

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