No other person has the potential to galvanize the banking industry as Ed Horowitz does. With just nine months' tenure as Citicorp's evp of advanced development, Horowitz has brought forth a compelling vision of the future of financial services, a future where the long arm of technology wraps itself around the globe and electrifies the bank's assets.
And if anyone can realize that vision, Horowitz can, say industry analysts. Recruited away from Viacom,where he was svp of technology and chairman of Viacom Interactive Media, the Citi evp has spent the past 27 years exploring and harnessing technology's reach. A pioneer in satellite broadcasting for Home Box Office, Horowitz took the company from a regional cable service in 1974 and enabled it to become the global entertainment network it is today.
So considering Citi's recently stated objective to amass one billion customers by 2010-that's up 960 million from its current base of 60 million-Horowitz's vision and his ability to execute are critical. Citicorp CEO John Reed is banking on it. Rather than achieve mass and scale through acquisitions like its banking rivals, Citi is expanding globally on its own, using the reach and draw of technology, especially the Internet, to connect with more and more customers, says Booz Allen & Hamilton's Leo D'Acierno, partner, financial services group.
While some may roll their eyes at this typically proprietary Citi strategy, there is a difference this time. Where once Citi's quest for customers would have been a lonely-and probably very costly-crusade, now, with the influence of Horowitz, Citi has forged a mass of technology relationships to help it reach its goals. Looking back on the past seven months, Citi has allied itself with Microsoft and First Data Corp. in their MSFDC bill pay and presentment venture; Internet content provider The Mining Co.; financial management software developer Meca Software; Security First Network Bank; the Pandesic electronic commerce consortium; and Integrion Financial Network. With these partnerships, Horowitz has brought forth a new era of strategic development, where Citi can not only learn and grow from information technology partners, but also have the opportunity to control and monitor their development in the financial services industry. This is a particularly clever strategy, say sources, for dealing in ventures where key players are not entirely trusted-Citi's work with MSFDC comes to mind.
And it is precisely this keen insight that has drawn the banking industry to Horowitz. Where some bankers like bantering the latest industry buzz words, Horowitz develops functional applications for these concepts. So when many talk of moving to "customer-centric" sales and marketing, for example, Horowitz is already a generation ahead-particularly in this area, as a customer-centric approach to the market is hardly a novelty to a man who's spent most of his life in the consumer-driven entertainment industry.
The next generation of "customer intimacy" takes banks beyond demographics and psychographics, says Horowitz; it moves them into analyzing customer profiles and account activity to dynamically serve the customer. In the area of bill pay and presentment, for example, Horowitz is working to "help customers get through the tough times." If a customer is, say, habitually short of cash five days a month and paying bills late as a result, Horowitz wants Citi to be able to automatically offer that customer a bridge loan at a cost that's considerably less than billers' late payment charges. "By providing that kind of service, customers will feel pretty good about us," he says.
Horowitz contends that Citi's success lies in providing valuable and entertaining services through the delivery channels consumers want. And while this strategy gets a lot of play in banks, he's found few bankers who can execute it. Consequently, he has brought over Emmy-award winning producer Susan Greene as market liaison to develop Citi's "story" across multiple media channels and recruited former MSNBC and Prodigy exec Josh Grotstein to develop the bank's Internet/intranet offering. If Horowitz's entertainment background has taught him one lesson, says Piper Jaffray's Bill Burnham, it's that the world revolves around the customer. At the end of the day, the only good use of technology is for capturing customers. FB