NEW YORK: Citi, the global bank, is seeking to take a more customer-centric approach to digital innovation than is often the case in the banking industry, and thus achieve differentiation in an area of increasing importance to consumers.

Melissa Stevens, director of Citi's global internet and mobile banking programme, argued at Internet Week 2014 that the financial sector has largely been "late to the game" prioritising customer needs in this space.

"The first thing that we are trying to do … is to put the customer at the centre of it; to focus truly on what the customer need is," she said. "We feel strongly that we're in the right place at Citi now."

Frequently, she added, financial brands have looked simply to provide "the feature" on their desktop or mobile platforms, rather than "truly understanding what the customer wants to get done" with these tools.

"We can't do things to people; we have to hear them, derive insight and help them solve the problems they're having with us," Stevens said. (For more, including details of Citi's innovative approach to using mobile apps, read Warc's exclusive report: How Citi is serving the digital banking generation.)

On the one hand, this involves delivering the services customers need across all touchpoints, or what Stevens called "form factors". These points of interaction today span anything from a branch to a call centre or tablet.

"I believe strongly that it's about 'channel of choice,'" Stevens told the Internet Week audience. "That said, we should optimise that channel – that form factor, that touchpoint – for what is best for you as a customer."

On the other hand, solving consumer problems necessarily rests on understanding the precise role a bank plays within a customer's broader range of interests.

"We're not the centre of your life; we're the place that has your money and makes it easier for you to get things done," said Stevens.

"We're the place that loans you money when you either want a TV, or a new phone, or a new house, or have a child to put in college – or yourself – or anything else."

Fulfilling such an enabling role, be it in day-to-day transactions or more significant moments like getting a mortgage, requires an unrelenting focus on the customer.

"We want to be part of your life every day for transactions, and every big moment that you have on the journey," said Stevens.

"And we want it to feel easy; we want it to be simple. And maybe, someday, we'd love it to be fun: not something you always think of from your bank."

Data sourced from Warc