Citi is increasingly focusing on harnessing technology innovations to differentiate itself from its competitors – and its efforts are led right from the top. The bank’s CEO, Michael Corbat, frequently highlights the importance of technology and has even stated that Citi is not a traditional bank, but a technology firm with a banking licence.
In Asia, meanwhile, Citi’s Markets business and its technology partners are working side-by-side to find new ways to leverage technology to deliver new products and solutions for their clients.
The person helping to champion Citi’s technology evolution in the region is Managing Director Jason Harvey, Head of Asia Markets and Securities Services Technology. Jason – who is responsible for talent attraction and development as well as championing Asian digital initiatives – describes technology as Citi’s “single biggest lever in terms of being able to compete in the market”.
Jason says his career has prepared him well for the challenges of his role. His first job after graduating with a Bachelor’s in Economics from Princeton University was with Bankers Trust, where he experienced first-hand the impact that technology can have within the financial sector. “This is where I first got acquainted with computer programming,” says Jason. “We had a very manual process for the calculation of net asset values, but I did some research on programming embedded in the mainframe terminal to make changes to the system.”
Jason joined Citi in 2010 as Head of Securitized Markets Technology in New York and moved to Shanghai in 2018 to take on his current role. He believes his experience in product, operations and technology roles has given him a well-rounded perspective that helps him come up with innovative solutions for Citi. “I often think of ways to solve problems that I wouldn’t have thought of had I been just a finance person or a technology person” he explains.
Jason is now helping other professionals to develop their careers at Citi. The growth that Citi is currently experiencing in Asia means that the bank is “always looking to hire great talent and currently has open roles across the region”, he says.
What kind of skills is Jason looking for in candidates? Many of them are, of course, specific to particular jobs – such as having data analytics or architectural experience. “But we also look for candidates with good problem-solving skills, who can work collaboratively. We want people with different experiences and ways of thinking,” says Jason.
Citi prides itself on its “collaborative and inclusive culture” and looks for candidates who will contribute to that culture, says Jason, who has spent the last few years learning Mandarin. He feels strongly that Citi has a track record of offering mobility opportunities – across locations, projects or businesses – to develop and retain talent. “I like to think creatively in terms of mobility because of my own career, and what mobility has done for me,” he says.
You don’t necessarily have to be already working in banking to get a technology job at Citi in Asia. Jason says he’s open to recruiting people from outside of the financial sector, primarily because they often have a refreshing and innovative perspective on how to solve problems.
What kind of work will you do if you join the technology team at Citi? Much of it is “future-focused”, because the team is looking at how Citi can harness technology and understand the vast amounts of data being produced by applying algorithms, machine learning and other artificial intelligence concepts.
Citi’s technologists are, for example, currently developing a platform to make client trade recommendations based on previous buying behaviour, in a similar way to how Amazon makes its buying suggestions. Jason’s team is also developing a project using cloud computing technology for containerisation, which he says can help improve technological stability and resiliency, while providing a feature-rich environment.
“We’re also heavily focused on employing DevOps. This allows you to get closer to a continuous delivery concept, where the idea of functionality, the coding of it, and the related production can all happen in the same day,” says Jason.
Jason believes this year is an exciting time for technology at Citi in Asia as the bank continues to invest in areas such as Innovation Labs, cloud technology, natural language processing, automation and digitization. But if you join Citi, you won’t just be using leading-edge technology, you will also be playing a critical role in shaping the bank’s overall business strategy. That’s because at Citi technology operates as a key partner – not as a support service – for the business. “And this partnership has never been stronger”, adds Jason.