The Big Game Changer In Citi’s New Mobile Banking App

It has been six months since Citibank released their upgraded mobile app. During that time, their app has garnered a following and we have been able to collect data on the user experience. We now rank Citi as the third best banking app behind Wells Fargo and USAA and it is moving up. Citi has closed the gap not only with all banks but with most fintech firms as well. This new app is the foundation of their yet to be released digital bank which is why everyone is paying such close attention. In this article, we not only explore the features that are getting them rave reviews but we look at three unique aspects of the app that are changing the game that community banks should consider for future digital projects.


App Basics


As Citibank continues to build out its retail bank, one knock on the institution was a below-par mobile banking app. Realizing that the mobile app is central to their future, they redesigned the application and rolled out some innovative features, in particular:


Mobile Banking


A New Interface: The new user experience is more graphical (still not as good as PNC’s Mobile Wallet) and more intuitive (their previous weak spot) than their previous version. Zelle is incorporated for P2P payments, and their check imaging is now much easier to use.


Spending Intelligence: While most mobile apps just display a transaction summary, Citi follows the current trend in providing insights into savings, spending, and goals. Citi’s app makes suggestions, highlights opportunities to save and tracks progress towards goals.


Bill Pay: In keeping with the theme, bill pay is now more intuitive and graphically driven. Bills can be paid with via ACH, credit or debit. One nice feature that we like is the app alerts you when a recurring charge increases.



Mobile Banking


Brokerage Integration: Similar to Wells, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, Citi now has real-time trading and brokerage account management within the app.


Customer Service: Now matching the best practice of the industry, Citi has “click to call” functionality that connects the customer with telephone support without leaving the app.


Card Management: One area where Citi jumped ahead of almost every bank is their functionality around credit and debit cards. Citi lets you lock your debit and credit card, activate new cards, report lost cards stolen and reset your PIN, all right in the app.


The Game Changers


While the above improvements are interesting, there are three aspects of the new app that are a shift in thinking.


Aggregation:  One area where Citi sets itself apart is the fact that the bank is the first major U.S. banking institution that aggregates accounts for personal financial management (PFM). This has long been the domain of specialty apps (i.e., Mint) and white label platforms (i.e., MX, Mint, etc.). However, Citi found that 87% of their customers wanted all their financial data in one app. When we first heard this, we were skeptical that Citi could create a good enough interface and functionality to pull customers away from other platforms but then again the PFM world is thinning as many apps such as Level Money, Prosper Daily and ZenBanx have all folded or been acquired by banks.


Citibank has the right idea here as the trust factor was a major reason why more PFMs didn’t thrive. Users were reluctant to connect all their financial data, and there is no great business model outside of investments since the major aggregation engines are not cheap. Further, after using a PFM, you realize that your actionable data is limited and so most users become bored. Having your bank integrated into your PFM does create some synergies that while may not be enough for you to switch from Wells, Bank of America or USAA, is good enough to retain customers.  


Non-Customers: The major departure from all other banks is that you don’t have to be a Citi customer to use the app. Citi is using their mobile application as an acquisition tool to acquire new customers. The thinking is that if the customer is using the app for account aggregation, then Citi has a unique window into the user’s motivation and should be able to convert the user into a customer.


We interviewed several non-Citi customers that use the app and the reasons they chose to try the Citi app are interesting. These users were already open to switching banks, the app allowed for them to try out a relationship without going through the account opening process and that Citi had the trust factor that made it more attractive than other non-bank alternatives.


Account Opening: To leverage non-customers, Citi smartly built in new account opening into the app. It takes about six to ten minutes to open an account, and new customers can use the account instantly. One major advantage of this approach is that the user can develop a relationship over time. The friction or barriers to entry or low so a user can sign up try the app for free.


Assuming the experience goes well, the user now has less friction to get approved for the account since Citi already has the basic information on the user. Further, this potential customer group can now be better targeted with offers compared to other prospect channels given that Citi has the data.


Putting These Concepts Into Action


Citi has done a great job with their new app and has firmly solidified the bank in the top three of the best apps available. In the future, look for Citi to add more tools around retirement planning, investments, and expanded budget metrics.


For community banks, many of these attributes should be considered when choosing a new mobile banking vendor, but more importantly, the concept of providing a free mobile tool to users and then using the technology to acquire new customers is the real winner here.