Oh Boy: Citigroup Planning New "Bank Of The Future"

citibank sign tbi

First, let us say that as customers of Citi (C), we find their web offerings to be horrific. That’s not real surprising. The bank has had a lot on its plate over the last couple of years, and perhaps sprucing up its website hasn’t been much of a priority. Fair enough.

So this is good news.

Bloomberg: Executives at Citigroup’s U.S. retail-banking unit have huddled for seven months to conceive a “Bank of the Future” offering rejuvenated Internet and cell-phone portals alongside branches, people familiar with the matter said. Citigroup hired 37-year-old Michelle Peluso, who helped modernize airline reservations as CEO of Travelocity.com, to lead the sessions.

Like McFly, the character played by Michael J. Fox in the movie “Back to the Future,” Citigroup is reaching to the past to reinvent itself. In 1997, under then-CEO John Reed, the bank unveiled a short-lived plan to do away with branches wherever possible by pushing more customers to personal computers, telephones and automated teller machines, a technology that Reed helped proliferate. Pandit, unlike Reed, doesn’t plan to get rid of branches.

Still, there’s something a little weird about bringing in the old Travelocity chief and holding “Bank of the Future” strategy meetings. Not to be snobby, but it sounds very Web 1.0ish — they’re going to end up with some big, feature-laden megaportal that executives ove, but which won’t have that clean, stripped-down usability towards which so much of the web is going. That’s just our hunch, anyway.

A related endeavour will create a single sign-on for banking and credit card services, which makes an insane amount of sense, and it’s ridiculous that they’re still separate, though we suppose that’s a logical function of how big and unwieldy Citi is.

In fact, we’d surmise that the size and unwieldiness of a bank is probably directly related to the size and unwieldiness of a bank’s website — when have you seen any giant behemoth in any industry have a nice, clean usable website? — and that as long as we live in a world of megabanks, we can expect subpar online banking.

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