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

  • Citi plans to fill 4,000 technology positions this year within its Institutional Clients Group.
  • The hire comes as Citi revamps the technology and operations that support its global businesses.
  • Citi’s embrace of a hybrid work environment should be a boost to recruitment, the bank said.

A top Citi executive hopes a host of incoming technologists can help bolster the bank’s technology and operations after a 2020 blunder that cost the country’s fourth-largest bank $500 million.

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

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

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

In October 2020, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency imposed a $400 million fine against Citi related to gaps in the bank’s risk management and compliance frameworks, and entered a consent order against Citi requiring the bank to invest in its “risk management, data governance and internal controls”.

The consent order stemmed, in large part, from an incident in August 2020 when bank workers mistakenly transferred nearly $900 million to Revlon’s creditors. Citi was able to recover approximately $400 million.

The error not only prompted regulators to issue a consent order for Citi, but also influenced then-CEO Michael Corbat’s decision to step down, Insider previously reported.

At Citi’s investor day in March, CEO Jane Fraser, who succeeded Corbat in 2021, said that in the past, Citi “has under-invested in elements of our operating model and technology and associated risk and controls.” , nor did we address the complexities of our organizational structure.

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

The bank has since put significant resources into upgrading its technology, adding 5,500 tech workers in 2021 plus an additional 4,000 non-tech employees working on its pending consent orders, according to its fourth-quarter earnings report. The bank spends roughly $10 billion on technology annually and has around 30,000 software engineers.

Now Citi is focused on ICG. The group accounted for approximately $44 billion in net income in 2021, which represented more than 60% of the bank’s total for the year.

Riley said Citi’s aggressive tech hiring push is focused as much on improving the bank’s operations and data management as it is on driving the adoption of digital products for its corporate clients.

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

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

A hot talent market

From Riley’s point of view, Citi’s huge investment in technology staff this year is a business imperative, and out of the question.


volatility

in the markets hitting both banks and financial firms this year.

“That need to deliver an exceptional customer experience and that straight-through processing means you can run a very controlled environment,” Riley said. “It’s really forcing us to keep investing in technology, and it almost doesn’t matter what happens in the foreign market in terms of ups and downs. We know we need to do that for the long-term viability of our business and our strategy in today’s market.”

But Citi is not the only bank or fund in the job market. On both the buy and sell sides, tech workers have become increasingly sought after during the pandemic, with financial firms even speeding up the interview process in a bid to hire software engineers and 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’s driving that is that all the banks, and Citi is certainly up there, have realized that we need to digitize and accelerate the digitization of our core businesses,” Riley said.

The influx of tech workers into finance, especially those coming from startups and Big Tech, has also called into question banks’ desire to bring staff back to the office. Citi’s approach to remote work — Fraser has said the bank is adopting a hybrid model for some roles — will be an advantage when it comes to hiring tech staff, Riley said.

“The work environment that you offer people is becoming really important for technologists post-pandemic, both in terms of the amount of flexibility that you’re willing to offer in terms of where they work, and in terms of the actual environment in which they work. they work,” Riley said.

At Citi, some hires are also being assigned 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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