Citicorp's planned merger with Travelers Group will not change Edward D. Horowitz's job-if such a thing can be said about one that is all about change.
Mr. Horowitz, an ardent technology advocate and agent of change, has been trying to shake Citicorp and Citibank free from old banking assumptions since he arrived early last year from the media industry. His mandate will make the transition intact, he said.
His advanced development group is being renamed e-Citi, more explicitly labeling the internal crusade toward Internet banking and electronic commerce in all their forms.
"I work for John and Sandy," Mr. Horowitz, corporate executive vice president, said of those in line to be co-chief executive officers of the post-merger Citigroup: John Reed of Citicorp and Sanford Weill of Travelers.
Interviewed last week during the American Bankers Association's bank card conference in Philadelphia, Mr. Horowitz said the exact shape of the e-Citi group will not be known until the companies formally come together. But it is ordained that "e-Citi will do for Citigroup what advanced development group did for Citicorp."
Dating from Mr. Reed's days in operations and retail banking in the 1960s and 1970s, Citicorp cultivated an envelope-pushing reputation, moving early into credit cards, automated teller machines, and home banking. Mr. Reed seemed to take that tradition over the top when he recruited Mr. Horowitz from a senior technology job at Viacom Inc.
Mr. Horowitz said the message and mission were "innovation and transformation," and his 600-person unit was given its own identity and a reporting line to the top for a reason.
If it were "embedded in the current base" of the banking business, the group would likely suffer in any budget cuts. Mr. Horowitz thus has the freedom to be a thorn in others' sides. He stated proudly that some within Citi have accused him of being unreasonable in his relentlessness.
"John (Reed) was clear on making me focus on changing the company, much like he did with credit cards in the 1970s," Mr. Horowitz said. "He did that very aggressively."
Mr. Horowitz has challenged the status quo within and without. He has brought in numerous multimedia people, inaugurated Internet banking to wide acclaim, and struck high-profile alliances with Netscape Communications Corp. and with MSFDC, the joint payment processing venture of Microsoft Corp. and First Data Corp.
A recent visitor to the advanced development group's California outpost said people there reported they are "working four times as hard" since Mr. Horowitz came in.
He has also thrown his weight around at the Bankers Roundtable's Banking Industry Technology Secretariat.
"His participation is good for BITS," said William M. Randle, the Huntington Bancshares executive vice president who serves with Mr. Horowitz on the secretariat's advisory board. "The reason is that he shakes things up."
"It is unusual to see a guy with a fresh attitude from the communications world go to work in a big bank," Mr. Randle said. "I think it's exciting."
Addressing the ABA conference, Mr. Horowitz, 50, said his first job was selling cable television service door-to-door. He has worked for HBO and Viacom, the conglomerate that includes Blockbuster Entertainment and MTV. He portrays himself as a revolutionary and enemy of corporate arrogance and hubris. Though a big believer in the Internet, he eschews "technology for technology's sake" and defines the successful strategy as "a combination of physical and electronic."
Just as films survived television and TV survived the upheavals of cable and satellite, "we too will survive, but we cannot rely on orthodoxy," he said. "We will be catapulted into a new world whether we like it or not."
Referring in a new way to Citicorp's target of a billion customers worldwide by 2010-including Travelers it approaches 100 million-Mr. Horowitz said the aim is "to create a distinctive global electronic experience, to an audience of one, one billion times."
Mr. Horowitz's speech included references to John Donne, George Bernard Shaw, Henry Ford, and the artist formerly known as Prince.
The multiple-platinum rock musician recently tried to bypass the music distribution system by marketing directly on the World Wide Web. Expecting to sell 5 million albums, the artist sold 87,000, Mr. Horowitz said.
"We don't want to make the same mistake, betting our business the way he did," the Citicorp executive said.
Mr. Horowitz also quoted an on-line brokerage executive to the effect that he had "bet the company on the (Internet) revolution."
"Good thought, wrong casino," said the Citibanker. "We don't want to bet the company. We want to bet on the customer."
He said he is busy "putting the pieces together" of a comprehensive electronic commerce experience-an effort that has Citicorp turning more than ever to other suppliers.
"I don't want to be a technology company," he said in the interview. "I want to be a commerce integration company and will go with the best of breed."
Hence the agreements to "capture eyeballs" through Netscape's Netcenter and to join and invest in MSFDC, renamed TransPoint. He said he is under no illusion that the latter's bill presentment concept is a "killer app," but it is an important "application within a larger application." He did not want to wait any longer for Integrion Financial Network or another supplier to come up with an alternative.
Mr. Horowitz did not detail Citi's plans for a digital wallet, another e-commerce building block. At the ABA conference, an official of Citicorp Universal Card Services, formerly owned by AT&T Corp., described a wallet it is testing, and it will fall under e-Citi's purview.