Citi Launches Banking Portal Extreme Makeover

Citi has begun rolling out its CitiDirect BE institutional online banking platform. CitiDirect BE--short for "Banking Evolution"--is a wholesale rebuild of its existing CitiDirect platform, which was launched in 1999.

The upgrade includes more analytics, more customization, automated account opening, user-generated content, a video channel and mobile access.

"We stepped back and asked where the market was going, where the needs of treasurers were going, what new technologies were available to meet the business challenges of corporate managers and treasurers," says Gary Greenwald, chief innovation officer for Citi's Global Transaction Services business.

Citi is first rolling out the platform in Poland, after announcing it at the SIBOS conference in Hong Kong in September. Greenwald says that he expects to have a "few hundred" users in Poland testing the new platform by the end of the year. The existing CitiDirect platform has 350,000 users, representing more than 20,000 corporate customers.

In addition, a few clients in the U.S. and western Europe are testing some of the new platform's innovative features, including electronic bank account management, analytics and the new media channel. "We get the early adopters to kick the tires, make sure everything holds up," Greenwald says.

The platform will be released in the U.S. in 2010, he adds, "highly likely the first half of the year."

According to Greenwald, the platform supports straight-through processing and SWIFT for large companies looking for direct integration with enterprise resource planning systems. Citi will also make the platform available for partner banks to give to their clients, he says.

Citi's platform has "a number of market-leading features," says Marc Harrison, vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Greenwich Associates. "It really is a much different look and feel from its predecessors," he says. "But what differentiates it from some of the other products that we seen is that this is the first full release of this kind of functionality."

That includes the dashboard that aggregates information across accounts, including information that individual users need to act on, as well as collaborative elements. The new Citi platform also brings together information from other applications, and even other banks, Harrison adds.

The general strategy behind CitiDirect BE, however, is consistent with what other banks are rolling out, he says. "This is a shift, a pretty radical shift, in how these platforms behave from a look-and-feel perspective, and a functionality perspective." he says.

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