The Women to Watch: No. 9, Citizens Financial's Beth Johnson

Register now

Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Virtual Channels, Citizens Financial Group

In her role as head of virtual channels at Citizens Financial Group, Beth Johnson is relentlessly focused on making banking simpler for consumers.

Last year, for example, when the Providence, R.I., company was building its new direct bank, Citizens Access, Johnson and her team acted as the voice of the customer, employing focus groups to test and re-test the design to ensure that it was intuitive and users could open accounts in a matter of minutes.

That engagement is a big reason why the direct bank has gotten off to such a fast start. Within three days of its launch last fall, Citizens Access had brought in deposits from all 50 states. By the middle of this year, it had already amassed roughly $5.4 billion of deposits.

Under Johnson, Citizens has invested heavily in technology and data analytics tools that have helped drastically reduce how long it takes to open an online account at its main bank and drive strong growth in personal and home equity lending.

See the most recent rankings:
Most Powerful Women in Banking
Women to Watch
Most Powerful Women in Finance

Next up is a revamp of Citizens' mobile architecture, which Johnson said was developed when banking apps were primarily used to manage deposits. Johnson has enlisted the Netherlands-based Backbase to build a cloud-based mobile platform, and a prototype developed to showcase the capabilities offers a glimpse of what's to come for Citizens' mobile users. The branch locator function on the cloud-based app is more than 30 times faster than a similar function on its existing platform.

"To be a leading bank in digital space, Citizens must be able to react quickly to changing customer needs and rising competitive pressure from money center banks [and] new fintech entrants," Johnson said.

Johnson is also Citizens' chief marketing officer, overseeing all of the company's advertising and marketing efforts. She has discovered in that role that most directors of television commercials are men, so at her urging Citizens has signed on to a nonprofit initiative advocating for more female directors in TV advertising and directed its ad agency to ensure that at least one female director is included in the bidding process for its TV spots.

Citizens is the first U.S. bank to make such a pledge and recently hired a female director for an upcoming commercial.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.