The Women to Watch: No. 25, Citizens Financial's Joanne Wyper

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Executive Vice President, Head of Commercial Banking Operations, Citizens Financial Group

Bumping up against a deadline to renew a contract with a third-party vendor in India, Citizens Financial Group faced a difficult choice — continue with a partnership that wasn't that efficient and look to improve it, or build a new system in-house, at a significant up-front expense.

Joanne Wyper, the head of operations within Citizens' commercial bank, favored scrapping the partnership and investing in robotics software that could automate processes and ultimately speed up payments and other transactions, reduce customer wait times and lower costs. But some senior executives at the $162.7 billion-asset company were skeptical that an in-house system would generate meaningful cost savings and expressed concern that it wouldn't be up and running before the outsourcing contract expired.

Wyper's view prevailed, and over the course of a year, she and her team were able to develop a dozen robotic process automations, re-engineer more than 50 processes and train colleagues on the work that was being moved back to the U.S.

The transition, completed just before the contract was to renew, is expected to eliminate 5 million hand-offs per year and reduce annual vendor costs by $1 million — savings that Providence, R.I.-based Citizens is reinvesting into other tech priorities. The redesign also reduced the onboarding of cash management clients from about 62 days to 22 days.

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Wyper and her team support the commercial and business banking divisions and are responsible for handling loan closings and servicing, collateral management and all commercial payments activities. It's a group that largely operates behind the scenes, though Wyper herself has been instrumental in changing how Citizens' bankers interact with clients.

Historically, bankers would provide the highest-touch service to the clients that produced the most revenue, while smaller clients "would be relegated to an 800 number, where they would be bounced from person to person," Wyper said.

That, Wyper added, "didn't sit well with me," so last year she spearheaded the creation of a concierge model in which business clients are assigned a single point of contact at Citizens who can handle many of their needs. More than 8,000 clients have been migrated to this new servicing model.

"I had a vision of upping our client servicing game to give Citizens' commercial clients a best-in-class experience," Wyper said, "no matter how large or small their relationship with us."

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