Roberta J. Arena, who became Citicorp's credit card chief in January, is well on her way to fulfilling one of her goals for the world's largest bank card business.
Ms. Arena, executive vice president of Citibank's North American and European card businesses, told a group of analysts and journalists in July that she planned to step up the bank's European marketing efforts and to push for a dominant credit card market position in Germany, where the bank is just die fourth-largest provider of cards.
Through a cobranding deal with the Deutsche Bahn, the state-owned railways, Citibank is determined to convince reticent German consumers that they need credit cards.
Only 20% of German households own a credit card, as cash and debit cards are more popular.
Ms. Arena's interest in Germany's card market stems from the fact that the bank's 300 offices there constitute its largest branch network outside of the United States.
Citibank's alliance with the Deutsche Bahn is a real coup, say industry experts, because it has the potential to catapult Citibank to die No. I position in Germany.
Currently, Citibank has 300,000 card accounts there, which is 200,000 less than the leading issuer, Berliner Bank. Deutsche Bank and Banco San-tander are neck to neck with about 450,000 accounts each, according to The Nilson Report, a newsletter published out of Oxnard, Calif.
The Deutsche Bahn offers an annual card that entitles customers to rail tickets at a 50% discount, and three million consumers have one.
Citibank's consumer banking operation, Citibank PrivatKunden AG, plans to convert all of those cards into one of three types of Citibank cards.
Consumers can choose between a standard card with no payment option, or they can apply for a Citibank Visa debit or credit card.
All cards will carry the Citibank and Deutsche Bahn logos as well as a personal photograph.
Generally, the card without a payment option is being marketed to children below the age of 18, while the debit card, an on-line Visa Electron product that is linked to a checking account, is appropriate for people who either do not qualify for or want a credit card.
Citibank and the Deutsche Bahn estimate that about half of the three million customers will request a Visa credit card.
Starting July 1, 1995, Citibank expects to convert about 300,000 Deutsche Bahn cards each month, completing the entire process within a year. Citibank's long-term goal is to attract another two million customers.
In addition, the partners want to provide telephone calling card services. The Deutsche Bahn will retain the revenue from Bahncard ticket sales, as well as a percentage of all other sales revenue earned through the card.
Citibank, which has earned the distinction of being the only American bank to penetrate overseas card markets, has opened one million accounts in Spain, Greece, Belgium, Canada, and Germany since 1989.
In a recent interview, Ms. Arena said that Citibank plans to enter new European markets every 12 to 18 months. Within four years, she said, the bank wants to add five million new accounts, mostly by penetrating new countries.