Citi plans to scale global e-commerce payments platform to 30 countries
Research estimates that by 2025, about one-third of all global economic activity will take place over digital platforms.
This presents a growing problem for retailers that have to stitch together a range of domestic and semi-international payment platforms and systems to get paid.
I caught up with Anupam Sinha, MD and global head for domestic payments and receivables at Citi, to discuss how they are innovating to capture this opportunity.
Gap in the market
Although Citi already offers a range of digitally enabled treasury, trade and liquidity management solutions, it did not offer solutions for online payments.
Large multinational companies operating online across multiple geographies have very specific and complex requirements that were not being met by the current players in this space. That is why they decided to build Spring by Citi to fill that gap.
A typical approach for banks is to leverage as much of the existing infrastructure and operating model as possible to minimise costs. However, as Citi was not in the online payments business, the team quickly realised that would introduce complexity and constrain the ambitions of launching with scale and differentiation.
Instead, Citi needed to take a blank-canvas approach to the challenge of designing and building the new proposition whilst also obtaining the necessary product, legal, compliance and regulatory approvals in order to launch.
One of the earliest challenges was how to advance the solution with limited subject matter expertise. The bank understood that there were many unknown unknowns, which would require hiring new personnel expeditiously and with the right mindset for this new business.
From a product development perspective, Citi designed the solution using development methodologies new to the bank and focused on creating openness in a new architecture that could evolve as the requirements evolved, providing room for learnings and new requirements. Using an agile development methodology compressed build times, meaning Citi could quickly move from design to development, analyse each release, reap learnings and shift direction as necessary.
Citi broke down silos and worked as an integrated team across product management, technology and operations to develop user stories that led to the rapid build-out of Spring by Citi’s core infrastructure. The joint ownership of responsibilities across the organisation provided for deep collaboration and diversity of thought, and kept client needs at the heart of the solution.
Go to market challenges
One of the major challenges Citi faced in starting up this new business was introducing the solution to the marketplace. In short, corporate buying centres didn’t know Citi offered the solution and Citi was new to the landscape. This created challenges when it came to selling the solution. E-commerce and other business teams were more familiar with fintechs, which made it considerably more difficult to compete.
To meet these challenges, the bank had to train its salespeople on a whole new solution, which required a new way of selling. A reimagined sales toolkit was created to address the needs of the sales team, and a Spring by Citi Academy training programme was put in place to ensure their sales force could drive the business effectively.
Initially, Citi set its sights on going live in ten-plus countries by the end of 2020. However, the complexity of adding the merchant acquiring business affected this plan. The rollout was subsequently scaled back to four countries, with the goal of adding 30 more countries in the following years.
About the author
Christer Holloman writes for FinTech Futures about innovation and diversity within financial services and fintech.