Citibank will have to go on a new-product binge to achieve its goal of one billion retail customers worldwide by 2010, said Edward D. Horowitz, executive vice president, advanced development.
"We've got to tell a story all the time," he said, drawing upon his experience as a senior executive at Viacom Inc., the media and entertainment conglomerate. "We have to be a content creation machine."
An account for college students, which he described in a speech to senior bank technology executives at an NCR Corp. conference last week, illustrated the bank's plans to assemble new kinds of products.
The account would be priced to encourage low-cost access via the Internet or telephone and include partnerships with merchants attractive to students, including movie theaters, fast-food restaurants, music/video stores, groceries, and travel services.
The goal would be to deliver a wide range of banking and nonbanking services to students' desktops-before someone else does.
"There are people out there looking to get in between us and our customer," Mr. Horowitz said. "We have to figure out how we can become the chosen entry into the marketplace."
George Kivel, managing director of research at Mainspring, a Cambridge, Mass., advisory firm, said Citi should concentrate on supplying efficient on-line financial services to the college set.
"Savvy college kids can find on-line airline tickets on their own," he said. "More important is to bundle in credit cards and other financial products and to get college customers used to things like on-line statements."
Regardless of specific account features, Mr. Horowitz said he believes banks must exploit their reputation for trustworthiness.
He pointed to the challenges of a world populated by people like his 14- year-old son, who "trusts Microsoft. It has been there his whole life."
The day that Microsoft opens a bank, Mr. Horowitz said, his son may well be among its first customers.
Having lived through transformations in the broadcasting industry, Mr. Horowitz said he sees parallels in banking. "Banking is stuck in the '70s," he said. That was a decade when the three major networks owned 98% of the television market. Twenty-five years later, the Big Three have a 45% share, and it is still shrinking.
Because it is still early in the game, banks have a chance to "change the rules," Mr. Horowitz said.
Citibank, he said, plans to spend 5% less per year to support its current customer base of 100 million. The next 900 million he said he expects to acquire and serve at one-fifth to one-tenth current costs.
If that happens, "Citi will be the lowest-cost, most ubiquitous provider of financial services on the globe," Mr. Horowitz said. But adding 100 million customers a year requires it to "get the momentum going."