Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Consumer Strategy, Citizens Financial Group

Sales strategy — long a critical issue for banks — has become a more delicate topic in the wake of the Wells Fargo phony-accounts scandal.

At Citizens Financial Group, marketing and consumer strategy is in the hands of Beth Johnson, a former partner at Bain & Co. who joined the Providence, R.I.-based company in 2013.

Johnson has led a push to invest in data analytics tools that are being used to improve the targeting of Citizens’ sales and marketing efforts. Under her leadership, the company has been building a database that is designed to reveal which customers are best suited for specific products. Citizens said that it has seen a 35% increase in marketing response rates.

A college graduate who has student loans, and might be able to reduce her interest rate by refinancing that debt at Citizens, might be identified as a prospect in the company’s database, according to Johnson. Whether the customer called or visited its website, Citizens has the ability to tailor its marketing pitch.

“This might be a need that could be very powerful for you as a customer,” Johnson said.

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Earlier this year, the $151 billion-asset company found itself in an unwelcome spotlight over a program called Citizens Checkup, in which branch employees meet with retail customers to discuss their banking needs.

Some current and former Citizens employees told The Wall Street Journal that information about some meetings was fabricated in an effort to hit the targets that had been set.

Johnson said that the company recently completed a review of Citizens Checkup and found no instances of customer harm.

“So we are continuing with the program, and we think it is a good way to have those deep, needs-based conversations with our customers,” she said.

Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack is a California-based reporter for American Banker who covers the U.S. consumer finance industry.