A World Without Banks? Prudential Students Ponder the Question

A World Without Banks? Prudential Students Ponder the Question

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Kristin Simonetti
October 07, 2014

Are banks becoming obsolete? Not if Heather Cox '92, Citi's chief client experience, digital and marketing officer, has anything to say about it.


She spoke about how she helps keep the world's largest bank on the cutting edge of technology in a breakfast meeting with international students in The Washington Center's Prudential Global Citizens program on Oct. 6.


Invoking a famous quote from Bill Gates - "People need banking; they don't need banks" - Cox explained how large financial institutions the world over face an existential threat from web-based products like Apple Pay and Alibaba. These nimble programs provide the personalized banking services consumers crave but the large, heavily regulated banks can't easily provide.


"The big banks don't see these companies as major competitors yet, and that's a mistake," Cox said. "My job is to help Citi respond to that."


Cox's sensitivity to the customer experience stems from her observations of the 2008 financial crisis. She realized that for eons, the banking industry treated money as a commodity. It's not; it's a basic human need, and therefore banks hold enormous power over their customers.


"We can make lives easier and we can make lives better," she said, "or we can cause real harm."


That's why Cox is working to build a customer banking experience that empowers users rather than handcuffing them. At Citi, she has an opportunity to implement that kind of change on a global scale.


"How do we transform Citi into a digital financial resource, not just a bank?" she asked.


Nearly 20 students attended the breakfast discussion from the Prudential program. Prudential scholars come from Brazil, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Among the program's academic topics is the interaction between financial institutions and government policies - a perfect fit for Cox's expertise.


See more photos from Cox's visit in the Flickr album.

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More