Jane Fraser, the chief executive of Citigroup Latin America, talks about the dramatic changes the company has been making to its business model in that region and shares her perspective on how the new strategy is working out so far.
She also touches on the unusual popularity of retail bank branches in Mexico, the digital push Citi is planning there next year, and what she sees as the three biggest differences between running a Latin American bank and a U.S. one – diversity, volatility and ethics.
Citi has been operating in many countries south of the U.S. border for more than a century. But these days it is busy exiting the retail banking sector in all but Mexico, where its recently rebranded Citibanamex unit has a 20% market share.
Fraser says the strategic decision to refocus its resources in other countries exclusively on institutional clients has resulted in that business growing at a double-digit pace.
In Mexico, Citi is making $1 billion of investments to improve the customer experience, enhance its digital banking and modernize its branches so that they feel more like an Apple store.
Fraser says that 95% of all Citibanamex sales happen in a bank branch and that people don't mind grabbing a ticket to wait their turn for a teller.
Still, she is excited about how improved digital banking capabilities will change the market.
She is also excited about how fintech can help advance financial inclusion in emerging markets – where 50% of the population is unbanked.
Fraser cites "a lot more focus on creating an ethical culture" and "a lot more corruption" among the differences between running a bank in that region versus other markets where she has worked for Citi.
It takes more effort to get people comfortable with escalating issues, she says. Making sure employees trust that there will be no retaliation and that visible action will be taken to remedy the problems they report is part of Fraser's strategy for countering the kind of troublesome behavior she was sent to the region to clean up.