"We saw that some of our users were using the web browser on their tablets to use CitiDirect," says Hubert Jolly, Citi's global head of channel and enterprise services. "We thought we could build an application with better and richer functionality that uses all the real estate you have on your tablet screen."

Citi Launches Tablet App for Commercial Clients

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Citi (C) is pulling the trigger on its commercial banking application for tablets -- CitiDirect BE Tablet.

The cousin of its similarly named mobile and desktop versions, CitiDirect BE for tablets does everything treasury clients might expect on their PCs. The iPad app lets users schedule transactions, check accounts and authorize payments. Yet, all of these functions are optimized for touch-screen computing.

For instance, with a few taps, customers can drill down on maps and graphs to see their accounts in different countries. And executives can filter data by currency, amount and country.

That’s important, says Hubert Jolly (he goes by his middle initials, J.P.), Citi’s global head of its channel and enterprise services business. He explains that as web traffic moves from desktop to mobile, and now on to the tablet, commercial customers expect to be able to work with their banks accordingly.

"The reason we started to go into tablet is that we saw that some of our users were using the web browser on their tablets to use CitiDirect BE Mobile," says Jolly. "We thought we could build an application with better and richer functionality that uses all the real estate you have on your tablet screen."

Traditionally, commercial mobile banking has lagged retail primarily because of regulatory requirements and the precision planning that must go into big money transactions. Citi has about 400,000 commercial users from about 80,000 different companies in 96 different countries.

Figuring out the marketing and translating the app content into different languages alone is a huge task, which is evident in the calculated approach Citi has taken in launching its tablet software.

Indeed, the New York banking company first launched its no-frills commercial banking portal, CitiDirect, in 1998.

At the time, Citi claims, it was revolutionary.

"What was unique was you could use your web browser and log in to your own PC, with a security token, and manage cash across" countries, says Jolly. "It was the first stage."

However, by 2006, the times had obviously changed.

Commercial customers had become accustomed to the fancier graphics and analytics they saw on their retail bank accounts.

So Citi launched its CitiDirect BE iteration.

The new edition allowed users to organize applications just like they would on a Google page, allowing executives to sort different functions by importance (think: moving information up and down on your LinkedIn profile). There was also an added search tool where those users could ask questions.

In 2011, Citi made a special CitiDirect BE app for mobile devices -- a nod to the smartphone explosion.

And since then, Citi has been working on its tablet software out of its Dublin innovation lab, where a special team of developers work solely on commercial banking applications for new devices. Additionally, Citi has brought customers into its Miami and Singapore software production studios to focus-group the software.

In September, CitiDirect BE Tablet launched in Apple’s App Store in 23 of the countries where Citi does business.

Over the summer, Citi ran a pilot program targeting all of its four regions (EMEA, North America, Latin America and Asia/Pacific) in nine different markets (such as Asia) and included 27 different customers and 50 different users.

So far, the interface is impressive, says Nancy Atkinson, an analyst at Aite Group in Boston.

"I think they are in a leading position,” she says. "Citi has moved pretty quickly on this, and they have done some testing with clients, so this one is a pretty good initiative for them."

Atkinson adds that there is still room to grow. An updated version of CitiDirect BE might include an agnostic approach to account aggregation that allows users to view not just Citi accounts but balances and information from other banks, as well.

"Right now, Citi doesn’t have the ability to bring those in," she says. "But they are working on it."

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