Citizens Bank has been around for almost 200 years—and while things have changed plenty over the last two centuries, they’ve never stopped forging ahead with new, innovative ideas. But unlike most 200-year-old companies, the bank IPO’d just about four years ago and has dedicated itself to making banking better with technology.
Citizens has always been focused on its credo and mission: Citizens helping citizens reach their potential. But what exactly does the future of customer-empowering banking look like?
Well, according to Tony, a technology leader at the company, it could look a little something like gamification, emojis, and AI.
But while those technologies are still in the theoretical stage, we spoke to Tony about the entrepreneurial culture of the bank (which oftentimes operates more like a startup than a financial services company) and the innovative tech they’re putting into action with the company’s landmark digital transformation.
The Digital Transformation: One App (And Emoji) At A Time
The number one focus of Citizens’ technological overhaul is making banking work for the changing customer.
“We’re trying to modernize and digitize the basic banking architecture,” Tony says.
And modernization means making banking work the way people actually want it to: on demand and with amazing customer service.
“We see mobile transactions now—a year ago—overtook online banking transactions. Mobile’s becoming the key interface with our customers and obviously it’s starting to become more prevalent than branch transactions as well,” Tony explains.
That means Citizens is investing heavily in its mobile app: a user-friendly interface, convenient login options like facial and touch recognition, and all the attractive features for which mobile banking has become so popular.
That’s where interesting technologies like AI, machine-learning, and gamification can come into play, too.
Gamification is the practice of adding useful interactive elements that keep users engaged with the app. What does that look like? Tony explains: “Earning points and doing things like qualifying for certain gifts or discounts to increase usage and adoption. Just becoming more embedded in people’s lives so they use the bank like they would an app.”
As for AI integration, Tony says there are a ton of opportunities for the bank to use machine learning to make smarter offers and tailored solutions based on user preferences.
And beyond the investment in mobile and online banking tech, Tony notes that Citizens sees a ton of room for innovation in branch-based banking, too.
“We’ve just been upgrading all of our ATMs to make them more interactive and with an easier flow,” he says. And that’s just the beginning.
The Best Part? The Entrepreneurial Culture Puts People Like You To Work On These Projects
“Being a super reasonable bank and a long-standing bank, it’s a very collaborative organization,” Tony explains. And that more relaxed, collaborative culture contributes to the sense of entrepreneurship across the organization.
“In line with the technology investments, we’re also pivoting to Agile working practices,” Tony explains. Agile is a method of working that involves giving more responsibility and ownership to a small team or “pod” who can integrate creative solutions quickly, execute on quick fixes, and respond to issues that arise.
“Rather than wait for everything to be perfect, we try to do continuous releases and upgrades,” he says.
One of the best features of these working practices, and the entrepreneurial culture in general, is that it empowers interns and entry-level people to contribute more and learn more in the process.
“It brings fresh insight to our teams,” he explains. “We’ve got a group of older developers and we’ve got interns coming out of colleges or Year Up. They bring different insights to the end-user experience.”
Even if you’re not a tech person, per se, Tony says there are still opportunities for you to take advantage of the digital transformation. Agile pods put business and product people to work alongside developers and engineers.
And the company’s adoption of new technologies doesn’t just benefit their customers; the bank is also investing in collaborative software (like chat apps, screen sharing, and cloud sharing) and their new HQ in Johnston, Rhode Island, is designed to promote collaboration and seamless work.
“We’ve got big agile rooms. We’ve got a lot of technology in the rooms to help people do their jobs,” Tony says. “And having three-and-a-half thousand people on a new campus really helps with the entrepreneurial spirit, the leveraging of technology, and working in new ways.”
Ready to use new tech to make new tech? Check out open roles and more from Citizens on WayUp!