Q. What’s your role, Ireti?
A. I’m EMEA Head of Payment and Receivables which is part of the Treasury and Trade Solutions business; covering 55 presence countries. My role includes engaging with both clients and the broader industry, regulation and compliance and managing the P&L. The most enjoyable part is product development and innovation – working with partners like Equiniti to develop state of the art solutions that meet clients' needs.
Q. What does the partnership with Equiniti involve and how do you both benefit?
A. Equiniti is our customer, our supplier and our partner. It started with Equiniti as a banking customer and that’s evolved into a holistic corporate and investment banking relationship – we were involved in Equiniti’s IPO, for example.
The services we provide include supporting Equiniti’s registrar services and pension payments, through our international payments network and foreign exchange solutions. And Equiniti now provides innovative solutions to us, such as the life validation services we deploy for public sector clients.
What we value about Equiniti is that they’re innovative, creative and proactive. They help us to create value and solve client problems, by thinking about how our clients interact with us and what makes most sense for them. And they’re responsive, so we can go to market with a solution very quickly and get everything right first time.
The relationship continually develops and we’ve been through iterations we hadn’t even thought about when we embarked on this journey.
Q. What makes it a true partnership?
A. It’s about starting with a blank sheet of paper, thinking strategically and coming up with new ways of doing things. We jointly look at both organisations and find the synergies and areas of interaction that allow us to create value, for us and the sector.
We look at client segments we both cover and think about what we can do to improve the client experience and the ‘killer app’ to do that.
And it’s about looking into the future – what’s coming down the track and how we can position ourselves to make the best of it. It’s a long-term planning and creative process. We’re defining a new future together – there are places we can go as a partnership that we haven’t even thought of yet.
That’s very different to a contractual relationship, where it’s very much about pricing points and looking linearly at a solution. A contractual relationship is finite.
How do the two organisations work together?
A. It’s complex! Unlike a contract where you can go ahead and execute, the richness of the partnership brings complexity. There are so many parts of each organisation that are working together and interactions at multiple levels. We have to make sure all parts of both organisations are aware of the partnership and we have to think of every aspect at the same time, otherwise there’s the potential for conflict. It’s like being a conductor, ensuring everyone’s playing their part.
Q. Do Citi and Equiniti share any traits?
A. Yes and that’s why we’ve developed such a good partnership, even though both Citi and Equiniti have been through many changes over the last ten years. There are differences as well and that’s also beneficial. Equiniti can be nimbler than we are and we leverage their innovation and ability to go to market quicker, to serve our clients.
Q. What would you say to other organisations considering a strategic partnership?
A. Look for the synergies. It’s not just about products but about cultural fit as well – you need to be able to work together. That commercial aspect is also important, so it has to make sense for both organisations.
Q. What will be the most significant industry challenges over the next few years? How will your partnership help you overcome them?
A. We’re at the confluence of digital disruption and disintermediation. Fintech is coming in, there are changes in how payments are being made, such as real-time and 24/7, and new payment highways are being evaluated, like distributed ledger.
The disruption isn’t hitting us immediately but we are seeing the results of it in the retail space. That’s heightening our clients’ need for an improved customer experience.
Equiniti can help us to deploy a more digital model to our clients, to look at the adjacencies to payments such as the life validation service, and to come up with solutions that help us to enhance our clients’ experience.
Q. Do large organisations have the talent to meet these challenges or will you have to reach out to fintech start-ups?
A. Citi has eight innovation labs which include Singapore and Dublin, which are all about future proofing the bank, whether that’s looking at Bitcoin, new forms of ecommerce or better ways to serve our clients. They adopt a fintech mindset, going through proof of concept, trying out the model and making sure we can deliver before we invest and scale up.
I actually think it’s the other way around and that banks have the people fintech companies need.
Fintech has been very successful in retail but to create corporate solutions they need to learn about risk, compliance, regulation and commercial skills.
Q. What do you find most exciting about your work?
A. The challenges and the ability to come up with something new and interesting for a client. I like thinking of something that hasn’t been done before and creating value in that way. And I enjoy the people aspect. I like the meeting of minds and coming up with new ideas.
Q. You’ve been in banking for 28 years. Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in the industry?
A. Whatever the industry, work takes so much of our time that you shouldn’t do anything unless you really enjoy it. That’s what enables you to make a difference. You should go into a career wanting to add your own stamp. Find something you’re passionate about and let that be what drives you.