Citi looked to Ant Financial success as model in Google tie-up

Citigroup looked to the success of Asian super-apps like Ant Financial and Paytm while developing its new checking-account offering with Google.

Citigroup spent years watching Asian consumers flock to outside apps for their payments and lending needs, and the bank now believes the same will happen for deposits, incoming Chief Executive Officer Jane Fraser said during an interview at the Singapore Fintech Festival that aired on Monday.

A sign for digital payment service Ant Financial’s Alipay.

Bloomberg News

“We decided we’d better go on the attack and on the offensive on this rather than get too hooked for too long onto the old way of doing things,” Fraser said.

Citigroup has long partnered with Ant Financial and Paytm along with Singapore’s Grab to embed its services into these outside apps, Fraser said. Still, with Google, the bank focused on ensuring it was responsible for underwriting the account and held many conversations with the technology giant about data management.

“We’re very used to joining into an ecosystem,” Fraser said. “I think, importantly, with Google it is our own checking account.”

Separately, Citigroup is making a renewed push into wealth management in Asia, Fraser said, noting that she and Paco Ybarra, head of the firm’s institutional clients group, have spent years looking for ways to make sure private bankers and wealth managers work together more.

“We came together and said, ‘This is crazy, we’ve got to come together as one Citi and bring a single wealth platform together, put this on a new tech stack, bring in partners,’ ” said Fraser, who was most recently head of the global consumer unit after a stint running the private bank. “And the place that we’re starting that with is Asia.”


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