Most Powerful Women to Watch: Gonca Latif-Schmitt, Citigroup

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Global Head of Commercial Cards

Corporate travel drives much of the revenue for Citigroup’s commercial credit card business, so when the pandemic hit and ground travel to a halt, revenue suffered. Instead of lamenting the loss of business, Gonca Latif-Schmitt, the global head of Citi’s $600 million commercial card business, saw an opportunity for her team to focus on developing new sources of revenue in the business-to-business market.

“Although we know that travel will eventually come back over time, we have developed resilience against this adversely affecting our financial health by developing different markets and revenue streams,” said Latif-Schmitt, who has headed global commercial cards since 2017.

Before the pandemic struck, Latif-Schmitt was at work on a range of initiatives designed to take advantage of the growth in e-commerce and enhance digital and mobile experiences. The efforts have yielded 14% growth in new-card spending, a client retention rate of more than 98% and an increase in market share for Citi.

Call center volume also has been growing. That led Latif-Schmitt to introduce the use of conversational artificial intelligence from a company called Interactions. She had little history to guide her, as there was scant precedent for serving business travelers through an AI-powered virtual agent — not to mention the risk of a customer backlash. However, the technology now handles routine calls, freeing up live agents to deal with more complicated questions.

Latif-Schmitt has long been a mentor to women across the global organization, but to make an even bigger impact, she co-founded a network within Citi for women in treasury and trade solutions. Networking is a big part of the group’s mission, but its members also spend a lot of time talking about leadership and the importance of being authentic.

“Compared to 15 years ago, we speak more candidly on many fronts,” Latif-Schmitt said.

For the first time, American Banker's Most Powerful Women in Banking celebration is open to the whole financial community. Join us virtually October 6-8 to hear our 2020 honorees' stories and experiences. Register here.

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