Transformation is on the Rise: The New CitiDirect Experience

This is the fourth in a series of articles by Citi Treasury and Trade Solutions experts that explores a transformation that is underway in corporate banking platforms and ecosystems.

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Celina Khurymorejon,
Head of UX, Digital Channels, Treasury and Trade Solutions, Citi

Good UX Design is Key to Reimagining Corporate Banking Platforms

Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs once said, “Good design is not just about what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” If there’s one saying that captures the essence of transforming the user experience for a decades-old corporate banking platform, this is it. The process of designing computer interfaces and navigation that simplify backend complexities in a visually appealing and intuitive manner is part art, part science.

Citi is in the midst of completely reengineering its CitiDirect BE® corporate banking platform from the inside out.

One of the most prominent goals of the project is to improve the user experience (UX). With good reason. Usability and an engaging design drive user satisfaction and increase users’ productivity. Making this goal a reality falls squarely within the realm of the UX design team.

UX design is a commanding field in today’s digital world. It is believed to have first been named a technology discipline in the early 90s when Donald Norman, a cognitive scientist, became Apple Computer’s first user experience architect. As he once explained it: “I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow: I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with a system.” Thus, UX design has come to encompass a number of aspects, including user interface (UI) design, usability, accessibility, information architecture, and human-computer interactions.

First and foremost: understand users

At Citi, there is a lot of fervor around empathizing with banking platform users, understanding them, and understanding their needs. From a UX design perspective, this is absolutely essential. Good UX design is all about the user.

Providing users with an intuitive, logical and easy-to-navigate design, that is specific to their needs, begins with assimilating a lot of different information. This is due, in part, to the fact that CitiDirect is a highly robust platform that encapsulates a wide array of treasury, trade and liquidity management capabilities. In addition, the platform’s user base is extremely diverse. Tens of thousands of users represent virtually every industry segment and work for companies whose business models, operations and geographic footprints vary widely in size and complexity. Plus, within any specific company, there are multiple types of users, ranging from CFOs to staff members who perform and manage daily transactional activities such as payables and receivables.

Consequently, the UX design team must look at the data, the platform and its users through multiple lenses. With the assistance of data design and modeling experts, the design team can distill insights derived from quantitative and qualitative factors to understand usage patterns and user needs. Input is gleaned from user groups, surveys and call center feedback, for example, plus live observations. It also comes from data extracted from the platform itself, sometimes aided by real-time telemetry. The data spans everything from usage statistics to how and how often users enter and exit the platform to how and where they navigate within the system to complete different tasks. And more.

Ethos of a new platform: User journeys

Armed with a wealth of data and analyses, UX designers then turn to a tool of the trade called user journeys. A critical step in coming up with UX design concepts is mapping what a person goes through, or the steps he or she takes, to complete specific tasks or accomplish certain goals on the platform.

Mapping users’ journeys also must be linked to their’ “personas”, or roles. In the case of the CitiDirect platform, designers delineated different personas for decision-makers and operational users. They then mapped various journeys specific to these discrete personas. Programming the identified journeys involves bringing together applications within the banking platform, applying different levels of control, information and transactional capabilities based on how and why the personas perform specific tasks during their journey.

When a decision maker such as a CFO or treasurer, for instance, logs into CitiDirect he or she is presented with interactive solutions and market intelligence that support decisions related to business growth, managing risk, preserving capital, optimizing liquidity and working capital, and driving efficiencies.

When operational users log in, they are presented with experiences tailored to managing accounts, payments, receivables, liquidity, trade, foreign exchange or reporting, for example, in line with their day-to-day responsibilities.

In building the UX around user journeys, the design team can also methodically extract from some 600 menu items in the legacy CitiDirect platform the ones needed for a specific journey to create simpler, more intuitive screens and menu options.

Take, for example, the journey involved in reconciling an account. All of the steps and menu options needed to complete the reconciliation can be presented on a single screen, as opposed to the user having to toggle between multiple screen that present different types of account and transaction activity.

Design to what they do, not what they say

The process of designing a user interface (UI) in a certain sense is counter-intuitive: the first rule of usability is to not pay attention to what users say. Rather, pay attention to what they do.

Users may say that they want access to lots of data and information at once. But observations of a large number of users may tell a totally different story. One of the challenges, therefore, is to look beyond the edge cases or the loudest voice in the room and design for the vast majority of users. If, for example 80 percent of clients have 6 or 7 bank accounts, designers would design a simple easy-to-use screen that brings visibility into 6 or 7 accounts to the forefront. At the same time, they would build in customization options to meet the needs of edge cases.

Reporting is another area where a simplicity-first design approach is driven by data and what users do. As a case in point, the legacy CitiDirect platform offers hundreds of different standard reports. The new streamlined platform presents users, during their journeys, with the most in-demand reports based on actual usage. However, it also features a conversational UX that gives users tools to build reports to meet their specific needs.

A focus on innovation, and the future

There is an art to creating simplicity without reducing capability. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of UX design is being able to use data science and an understanding of users to create UX experiences that enables users to do what they do faster and better.

Equally rewarding is being able to stitch together the power of the platform to take them through their journeys in an intuitive way, anticipating and guiding them to the next step or providing the ability to quickly and easily drill down to information that is needed... knowing what they will be looking for or will need to do next.

Creating a better UX is not a one and done adventure. It’s ongoing, with new journeys and capabilities being added over time. A flexible systems architecture and consistent design approach provide the foundation for continuously simplifying and enhancing the user experience and providing a framework for the future -- a win-win for the bank and its clients.