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Customer-centric philosophy: Citi Vietnam’s pillar of success in digital banking

November 3, 2021 | 05:00 pm PT
Paul Kim, country business manager at Citi Vietnam, shared how the bank has brought “digital banking to life” by generating innovations and ideas to meet changing customer behaviors in pandemic times.
Paul Kim, country business manager at Citi Vietnam

Paul Kim, country business manager at Citi Vietnam. Photo by Citi Vietnam

Vietnam is among the regional countries seeing the highest digital adoption rate in the banking industry, creating opportunities for banks like Citi with a customer centric digital platform. Paul Kim, country business manager at Citi Vietnam, speaks to VnExpress about how the bank has adopted technology and data to understand customer needs, especially amid a pandemic.

He has 22 years of international experience in management across finance, lending, and retail banking in the U.S., Australia and South Korea.

How has Covid-19 affected customer behavior and banking trends, and how has Citi Vietnam adapted to meet these changes?

Customers are always the top priority at Citi. We’ve observed a lot of changes during the pandemic such as work from home along with shopping and entertainment spending switching more online. Citi’s solutions, products, and services were adapted to better serve customers. We’ve made every effort to remove all barriers that could arise in the cashless payment process, thereby increasing customer convenience.

For instance, during the time of social distancing and lockdown, our customers can securely and quickly apply for and open a credit card through Citi’s online platform. To encourage cashless payment, we’ve also enhanced cashback features of the Citi Cash Back Credit Card. Through our strategic partnership with Grab, we offer a 10 percent cashback for all Grab services used, including Grab Mart, Grab Delivery... or it’s a 5 percent cashback applicable to recurring payment transactions made by customers for entertainment and business demands.

Citi has also partnered up with numerous large e-commerce sites, including Lazada, Tiki and Shopee to provide customers seamless and safe online shopping and cashless payment experiences, together with a great deal of priorities and benefits, during the lockdown.

We believe these solutions are relevant to the actual needs of customers during these difficult times. These are the result of Citi consistently listening and learning from our customers. Customers are not only the center of Citi’s operations, but also the very driving force that helps us constantly grow and improve, we strive for client excellence.

What role do digital technologies play in your customer-centric operation?

Digital transformation is an indispensable part of Citi’s customer-centric strategy and using data, we can recommend suitable products and services for each client. In addition, we also want to emphasize the human element in helping us thoroughly understand our customers.

Among the initiatives and ideas to bring digital banking to life, Citi Mobile® App was built to make the banking experience more convenient and secure. The app has been successful with 72 percent of customers digitally active, while 68 percent of customers are mobile active users and the customer satisfaction rate has grown by 85 percent year-on-year.
Our efforts to serve customers better were also recognized by industry, like the Digital Bank of the Year 2021 by The Asset Magazine and theGolden Dragon Award 2021 by Vietnam Economic Review.

From a broader perspective, what is your view on the current development path of digital banking and cashless payments in Vietnam?

Vietnam is still primarily focusing on cash payments. Cash is popular everywhere, from street outlets to supermarkets and shopping malls.

When I first came to Vietnam about nine months ago, I questioned myself why cash was still dominant here. The answer was simple as the bankable population was rather modest at 30 percent, and therefore there would be no way to make payments electronically or even use digital banking.

But things have changed now with more and more people moving to the city to live and work in large corporates. They need a bank account to get paid, so the bankable population is growing.

In terms of the growth in digital banking or digital payments, Vietnam now sees growth that is faster than any other markets in the world, especially in the ASEAN region.

Data from economic reports for ASEAN in 2020 showed that Vietnam has the highest growth rate of mobile banking apps, up 73 percent. The country also has the highest digital adoption rate in the banking industry with 51 percent regular users and 21 percent new users.

So, what are the opportunities for the banks in this area? With over 50 banks in the market, the competition is fierce as they all are investing heavily.

This means there are opportunities for banks like Citi with a customer centric digital platform who can offer personalized solutions to new and existing customers. This will be a big opportunity, but also a fierce competition among banks, especially when there are newcomers like digital banks and fintech companies too, but we are confident we have the ability to grow further in this environment with the investments we have made.

Can you be more specific on the opportunities available for Citi in this case and what strategies you have?

The opportunity for us comes right from the needs of our customers, as they themselves now demand more from banking services and products. This includes the ability to open a bank account remotely with less paperwork or requiring a seamless online payment facility. In the past two years, we have observed a seismic change in consumer behavior where online shopping or e-commerce trading has reigned. We have invested more in our digital transformation to meet new customer demand.

At Citi, we have been continuously transforming our digital platform. Our strategy for success is a customer led growth strategy leveraging our digital and data capabilities.

We continue to transform digital solutions that enable us to meet new customer needs as well as remove any pain points. We also focus on building differentiated positive customer experiences by offering the most relevant and targeted benefits to our customers, leveraging our sophisticated data analytics.

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