Citi hires 4,000 technologists at ICG to clean up the back office

Citi hires 4,000 technologists at ICG to clean up the back office

  • Citi expects to fill 4,000 technical positions this year within its institutional client group.
  • The hiring comes as Citi revamps the technology and operations that underpin its global business.
  • Citi’s adoption of a hybrid work environment should boost hiring, the bank said.

A senior Citi executive hopes a slew of incoming technologists can help bolster the bank’s technology and operations after a 2020 mistake that cost the nation’s fourth-largest bank $500 million.

Stuart Riley, global head of technology for Citi’s Institutional Clients Group, told Insider the bank is in the midst of a massive hiring spree across its group that will see it add around 4,000 technologists this year. . The ICG provides investment and corporate banking services to the bank’s largest commercial clients.

The hire focuses on key areas of Citi’s institutional business, including global payments, trade finance and lending, and spans the bank’s global footprint.

“We’ve hired thousands of technologists, very focused on how we improve the overall operation of the business, controls, data, data quality, all of that, that relates to our consent order,” Riley told Insider.

In October 2020, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency fined Citi $400 million for deficiencies in the bank’s risk management and compliance frameworks, and issued a consent order against Citi that required the bank to invest in its “risk management, data governance and internal controls. »

The consent order stems, in large part, from an incident in August 2020 when bank employees mistakenly wired nearly $900 million to Revlon creditors. Citi was able to recover around $400 million.

The blunder not only led regulators to issue a consent order to Citi, but also played a role in then-CEO Michael Corbat’s decision to retire, Insider previously reported.

At Citi’s Investor Day in March, CEO Jane Fraser, who took over from Corbat in 2021, said that in the past, Citi “has not invested enough in elements of our operating model and our technology, and associated risks and controls, nor have we addressed the complexities of our organizational structure.”

The solution, Fraser added, is “to become a simpler, more controlled bank with an operating model designed for the scale and speed of the digital age, and one with leaner organizational structures, being simpler will make us also more efficient.

Since then, the bank has devoted significant resources to upgrading its technology, adding 5,500 technology workers in 2021, plus an additional 4,000 non-technical staff working on its outstanding consent orders, according to its report on fourth quarter results. The bank spends about $10 billion a year on technology and has about 30,000 software engineers.

Now Citi is focusing on ICG. The group accounted for around $44 billion in net revenue in 2021, which was more than 60% of the bank’s total for the year.

Riley said Citi’s aggressive technology recruitment push is focused both on improving the bank’s operations and data management, as well as driving its adoption of digital products for its enterprise customers.

“When you look at our core lines of business, almost all of them have services that we’ve already digitized and want to improve further, or now want to digitize,” Riley said.

This month, Bloomberg reported news of ICG’s planned 4,000 hires, adding that 1,000 of those will be within the division’s capital markets business.

A booming talent market

In Riley’s view, Citi’s outsized investment in technology staff this year is a business imperative – and removed from the


volatility

in markets shaking banks and financial companies this year.

“That need to deliver a great customer experience and that straight-forward treatment means you can manage a very controlled environment,” Riley said. “It really forces us to keep investing in technology, and no matter what happens in the external market in terms of ups and downs. We know we have to do this for the long-term viability of our business and of our strategy in the market today.”

But Citi isn’t the only bank or fund in the job market. On both the buy and sell side, tech workers have become increasingly in demand during the pandemic, with financial firms even speeding up the interview process in a bid to recruit engineers and software developers. .

“I would say the last 12 months have been the most competitive [hiring] market that I have seen in my career as a technologist. I think what drives this is that all banks, and Citi is certainly up there, have realized that we really need to digitize and accelerate the digitization of our core businesses,” Riley said.

The influx of tech workers into finance, especially those from startups and big tech, has also challenged banks’ willingness to push staff back into the office. Citi’s approach to working remotely — Fraser said the bank is adopting a hybrid model for some roles — will be an asset when it comes to hiring technical staff, Riley said.

“The working environment that you offer people becomes really important for technologists after the pandemic, both in terms of the flexibility that you are willing to offer in terms of where they work, but also in terms of the environment real in which they work,” Riley said.

At Citi, some hires are also allocated to teams that focus on emerging technologies, such as distributed ledger technology, artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), Riley added. The bank has hundreds of AI/ML models in various parts of the business, from fraud detection to payments to customer service, he said.

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