E-Business Strategy and Models in Banks: Case of Citibank
Bank is an institution that deals with money as well as credit. It accepts deposits from the public, makes funds available to those who need then and helps in remittance of money from one place to another (Macesich, George, 2000, p-42). Modern banks today perform a wide range of functions that makes it difficult to give an apt and precise definition of it. One of the famous economists, Crowther had said, a bank “collects money from those who have it to spare or who are saving it out of their incomes, and lends this money to those who require it”. In short, the term bank in modern times refers to an institution that deals with money i.e. accepts deposits and advances loans; has the ability to create credit which basically implies expanding its liabilities as a multiple of its reserves; creates demand deposits and it is a commercial institution that aims at securing profits.
Citibank is a subsidiary of Citigroup. Citibank was founded as City Bank of New York in the year 1918. According to the latest statistics, it is now the third largest bank holding company in the United States by the total assets after Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase. The bank has its retail banking operations spread over more than 100 countries and territories around the world (Harold, Cleveland & Huertas, 1985). Apart from the standard banking transactions, Citibank offers credit cards, insurance and other investment products. Their online services have earned them appreciation from every nook and corner, making them the most successful in the field. The 15 million online users bear testimony to the stated fact. The key people involved in the management of the bank are: Vikram Pandit (CEO), John Gerspach (CFO), Douglas Peterson (COO) and Willliam R. Rhodes, the Chairman.
Strategy literally means the way an action is planned to achieve the desired results. Every company has certain aims that it hopes to conquer. It has a vivid description of what it desires to achieve. The vision statement that company has is an idealized picture which inspires it, energizes its efforts towards directing its actions towards the expected goals (Hambrick and Chen, 2007, p 935-955). Strategic Decision Making, in context of a firm or an organization, is the framing of long term plan of action that aims at resulting in success and profits for the products and services marketed by the company, for instance (Triantaphyllou, 2000, p 320). Strategic decision making is important to outperform the various other competitors in the market. The process of determining appropriate courses of action for achieving organizational objectives and thereby accomplishing organizational purpose is known as Strategy formulation. In today’s era of cut-throat competition in the business environment budget-oriented planning or forecast-based planning methods are insufficient for a large corporation to survive and prosper. The firm must engage in strategic planning that clearly defines objectives and assesses both the internal and external situation to formulate strategy, implement the strategy, evaluate the progress, and make adjustments as necessary to stay on track (Kepner and Tregoe, 1965). A strategy thus formulated, should reflect on environmental analysis, basing on sustainable business. It should lead to the materializing of the vision of the organization, as to where the organization sees itself in the years to come and result in achievement of organizational objectives. It basically comprises of the following steps:
Setting up mission and objectives: The mission statement describes the company’s business vision, including the unchanging values and purpose of the firm and forward-looking visionary goals that would guide the pursuit of future opportunities and lead to its long term stance in the business world. Measures such as sales targets and earnings growth are the organizations financial objectives. Strategic objectives are related to the firm’s business position, and may include measures such as reputation in the market and market share.
Environmental Scanning: The environmental scanning includes the internal analysis of the firm, external macro-environment and the analysis of the firms’ task environment. Various scientific analysis have been developed which assist in the process of environmental scanning. A deep rooted internal analysis of the firm’s strengths and weaknesses and external analysis of the threats and opportunities gives us a clear picture about the firm’s stance. And a profile of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is given by the SWOT analysis. It gives us proper information regarding the concerned firm which helps us in matching the firm’s resources and capabilities to the competitive environment in which it operates (Menon et al, 1999, p 18-40). Strengths are used in developing the rudiments for a competitive advantage. Strengths include exclusive access to high grade natural resources, patents, strong brand names, favorable access to distribution networks and good reputation among customers. The weaknesses are high cost structure, lack of access to the best natural resources, lack of access to key distribution channels, a weak brand name and bad reputation among customers. Opportunities are chance occasions for growth and prosperity. They may include: removal of international trade barriers, loosening of rules and regulations, introduction of new technologies and an unfulfilled customer need (Hill and Westbrook, 1997, p 46-52). The changes in the external environment may pose serious threat to the organization. For instance, emergence of substitute products, new regulations, increased trade barriers and shifts in consumer tastes away from the firm’s products. The external macro environment can be tested on the PEST analysis scale. The acronym PEST (or sometimes rearranged as “STEP”) is used to describe a framework for the analysis of these macro environmental factors. It is the Political, Economic, Social and Technological analysis. Political issues include Government’s policies and legal issues like Tax policy, employment laws, trade restrictions and tariffs and political stability. Economic growth, Interest rates, Exchange rates and Inflation rates determine the Economic conditions of the market. Social factors include career attitudes, age distribution, population growth rate, health consciousness and emphasis on safety. The various factors like Automation, research and development activity, technological incentives and the rate of change of technology, influence the technological aspect of the functioning of the organization. A framework developed my Michael Porter known as Porter’s five forces can also be used in drawing industrial analysis.
Strategy formulation: Keeping in mind the strengths and the weaknesses of the organization, it charts out its strategy that helps it in optimizing its resources and gaining maximum profits out of it. Business trends analysis, Market analysis, Competitive analysis, Market segmentation, Marketing-mix, SWOT analysis, Positioning – analyzing perceptions and Sources of information are all studied closely and accurately and then strategies are formulated on the basis of the three generic strategies. The Cost Leadership strategy focuses on being the low cost producer in an industry for a given level of quality (Chaffee, 1985). The firm sells its products either below the average industry prices to gain market share or at the average industry prices to earn a profit higher than the market rivals. In the situation of a price war, the firm can maintain some profitability while letting the competition suffer losses. Even without a price war, as the industry matures and prices decline, the firms that can produce more cheaply will remain profitable for a longer period of time. The cost leadership strategy usually targets a broad market. The internal strengths that lead to success in cost leadership strategy are: High level of expertise in manufacturing process engineering, Skill in devising products for efficient manufacturing, having access to required amount of capital for investing in production assets and efficient distribution channels. The second generic strategy, i.e.
The Differentiation Strategy triggers the development of a product or service that offers unique attributes that are valued by the customers and that customers consider it to be better than or distinct from the products of the competition.
That means it gives ultimate utility and satisfaction to the consumer. Factors like access to leading scientific research, strong sales team that has the inherent ability to put forward the perceived strengths of the product in the market, highly skilled and creative product development department and corporate reputation for quality and innovation, result in the success of Differentiation Strategy (Mulcaster, 2009, p 65-70). The third generic strategy that is the Focus Strategy, finds its essence in a narrow segment within which it tries to achieve either a cost advantage or differentiation. The basic idea is that needs of the group are better serviced by focusing entirely on it.
Strategy Implementation: The strategy thus finalized is then implemented using budgets, programs and procedures. The firm’s resources are organized and allocated and proper motivation is given to the work force to achieve its objectives and thus the strategy is implemented. The way in which the work force perceives the strategy is different. It is logical, that the people who formulated the strategy and the people who will implement it are very different from each other and thus there might be a conflict of opinions, if proper care is not taken to communicate efficiently. Misunderstanding may lead to chaos.
Evaluation and Control: The implemented strategy has to be followed up and monitored in every step, and adjustments, if any required, will be made to adapt to the changed scenario of the market. Evaluation would primarily revolve around defining parameters to be measured, defining target values for those parameters, performing measurements, comparing measured results to the pre-defined standard and making necessary changes.
The application of information and communication technologies (ICT) in support of all the activities of business is known as Electronic business or “e-business”(Louis Gerstner,1996, p 172). Commerce deals with the exchange of products and services between businesses, groups and individuals and can be seen as one of the most essential activities of any business. The application of Information and Communications Technology to enable the external activities and relationships of the business with individuals, groups and other businesses is what Electronic commerce is all about. Electronic business methods empower companies to link their internal and external data processing systems more efficiently and adaptably, to work more closely with suppliers and partners, and to better satisfy the needs and expectations of their customers (Timmers, 2000, p-31). In practice, e-business is far more than just e-commerce. While e-business refers to more strategic focus with an emphasis on the functions that occur using electronic capabilities, is a subset of an overall e-business strategy. E-commerce aims to gather revenue streams using the World Wide Web or the Internet to build and nurture relationships with clients and partners and to improve efficiency (Miller, Roger, 2002, p741). Often, e-commerce involves the application of knowledge systems.
E-business involves business processes spreading the entire value chain: electronic purchasing and supply chain management, handling customer service, processing orders electronically, and cooperating with business partners and catering to their needs online, via internet. Special technical standards for e-business enable the exchange of data between various companies. Basically, e-commerce is the process of buying, transferring, or exchanging products, services, and/or information via computer networks, including the internet. EC can also be benefited from many perspective including business process, service, learning, community. E-commerce is often confused with e-business. E-business software solutions allow the integration of intra and inter firm business processes. E-business can be conducted using the web, the Internet, intranet and extranet or a combination of these.
E-BUSINESS STRATEGIES: With the arrival of the Internet facilities and plenty of web development technologies all over the world, e-business is the new talk of businesses in today’s world. E-business, like any other emerging field, is changing fast and in the process is changing the way businesses formulate their strategies and conduct their business through realization of those strategies. : E-business scores over the traditional sphere of business by adding speed to the business activities and giving a totally new dimension and definition to businesses worldwide be it whether partnerships, joint ventures or large corporations. It makes transactions quicker in this world of fast pace (Andam, 2003). The intranet, internet, cellular networks and various other forms of digital technology have resulted in formation of a niche value chain among clients, employees, suppliers, stakeholders and traders coordinated and interlinked in the world of web marketing. The equipments and pillars of e-business strategies include acceptance of payments over the Internet, online advertising, on-line trading and auction deals over the Internet. E-business strategies differ for small and medium-sized businesses. Apart from regular sources, e-business strategies can generate revenue made from paid marketing alliances, revenues derived from franchisees and subscriptions and revenue from maintenance of current channel integrity. E-Business technology provides organizations with a great opportunity to nurture relationships with external and internal parties across its value and supply chains, to realize its competitive advantages. In doing so, however, the solution is not in the application of technology alone, to develop an effective e-Business strategy and for a successful implementation to be realized, existing business interactions must be modeled and scrutinized to trace the interactions that will benefit from this paradigm. The business processes supporting these interactions must be reformulated and designed to effectively perform the procedures behind the interactions. These changes to the business will drive changes to the supporting technology and to the stakeholders that perform the business processes using the technology. The use of Internet has helped and garnered the worldwide development of business that reaches out to a wider consumer base and advertises their products more effectively and efficiently. E business has been added as the latest domain in business and has become a must-have in the highly competitive technology driven open market. E Business Strategy can be summed up as the overall strategies that govern E Businesses through calculated information dissemination or scattering. Information dissemination has been widely regarded as the strongest attribute of e-business, which uses information technology in a most effective and exhaustive manner. Not only has e-business has come to play a significant role in the scenario of world trade; there is no business without an accompanying e-business in today’s world. E business gives a business the opportunity, the chance to open its base to the global market and become a part of the global business community. The most important feature of e-business is that the helps businesses move on to the international scene at maximum efficiency using minimum cost. E-business has achieved unparalleled levels of success as business models (Business Software Alliance. 2001). For instance: Materials Requirement Planning (MRP), EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). The essential features of e-business strategies are Supply Chain management and email marketing.
A state-of-the-art E Business Strategy would generally include:
Supply chain management: According to Harland, “the management of a network of interconnected businesses involved in the ultimate provision product and service packages as required by the consumer is known as Supply chain management”. The supply chain spreads all over from governing the storage and movement of raw materials to the inventory of the production process and the finished goods, from the origin point till the point where it is finally consumed (Mentzer et al., 2007, p 1-25).
The effective management of supply chain can be taken care of with the help of e-business strategies, which will ensure better coordination and understanding between the wholesalers and the retailers of various products that are launched into the market. Better integration of the supply chain right from the source till the final delivery of the product can be effectively put to work using e-business strategy (Hines, 2004). This also leads us to the point of e- commerce where a parallel network of selling and buying can be seen using dissemination or scattering of information over the Internet. Everything ranging from automobiles to electronic gadgets can be bought over the Internet in a hassle free manner under the aegis of sound supply chain management.
Customer service and customer relationship management: Effective e-business strategies would involve better customer service and customer relationship management ensuring the highest level of consumer satisfaction. E business is targeted at providing the services that are customer friendly, which would include the delivery of goods right at the doorstep of the consumer, right on time.
Inventory and service management integration: E business strategies can also help in improved inventory and service management integration through formulating certain specific plans for accumulation of inventory and purchasing of machinery and equipment which will avoid unnecessary purchases that would ultimately lead to higher expenditures and entail different tax implications.
Tactical operations alignment: Tactical operations implying towards short-term goals as opposed to strategic planning aimed at long term goals can be better coordinated by implementing the e-business strategies.
Implementing Business Strategy: Implementing e-business strategy is a major task and to ensure its success, from the beginning itself, objectives need to be identified and measurable goals need to be chalked down. This will include finding out steps in a business process, minimizing errors by eliminating paper-based transactions, introducing new market opportunities or improving information access among managers, departments or strategic business units. The costs and impacts of the establishment are measured in terms of resources, time and money. The impact of business should be anticipated, well ahead of time.
The introduction of e-business technology across multiple strategic
Business units will require a major commitment of IT department. Since e-Business applications are transparent to all major hardware platforms, operating systems and databases, thus, using an open architecture configuration eliminates this concern (Charlesworth, 2009, p 49). If an effort to make clarifications regarding the value of the strategy to the stakeholders is made, then the process of implementation becomes smoother. For instance, e-Procurement applications add value at the purchasing department level by reducing errors and streamlining the processes involved.
At the organizational level value is added by facilitated purchasing in groups which cuts costs and vendors receive added value because they have quick and prompt access to information so they can track invoices and payments. The execution of the business interaction model is expected to place us in a position to clearly identify and apply values that can be quantified to the four issues discussed above, the net result of which is the formulated e-Business strategy itself.
E-business strategy in Citibank:
Banks today are up-to-date with both the pros and cons of the internet. They are aware of the opportunities and threats that are associated with the Web. Not a single traditional bank is brave enough to face investment analysts without an Internet strategy. But even a very thoughtful approach to the Web may do no good to the company/ organization. The main purpose behind launching online banking services is to provide the customer an alternative way which is more responsive and less expensive i.e. is cost friendly. CitiDirect is the centre of the Citibank global e-Business strategy. The Business strategy of Citibank is to:
- CONNECT their customers to their web enabled services,
- TRANSFORM their capabilities into new Internet offerings and
- EXTEND our reach into new markets via integrated infrastructure solutions and partnerships with technology companies or e-Commerce market makers. They have innovative e-business solutions like:
1) CitiPhone – 24 hours Phone Banking Service
2) ATMs- Automated Teller Machines
3) CitiAlert – GSM notifications service
4) E-Card – Internet Shopping Card
5) CitiDirect – Corporate Internet Banking Service, and
6) Citibank Online – Retail Internet Banking Service.
Citibank is committed to an “e-business strategy-Connect, Transform and Extend-was to web enable its core services, develop integrated solutions and reach new markets.” (McCauley & Khan, 2002, p.1). Their strategy is to position Citibank as the embedded Financial Services engine that powers the Internet economy. Citibank tries to differentiate itself from competitors by using its customer service efficiently. Several services are offered to their clients. Citibank offers telephone hotlines, customer relations managers to give individual care and attention to address the issues of their customers, and service experts. Citibank has been investing in technology for the front and back end of the banking systems, consistently for a long time now. Citibank was also committed to its customers. According to the case study, ‘Citibank’s vision was to become the world’s leading e-business enabler’. Citibank had over 268,000 employees located in over 100 countries and their focus was to embed their services into the everyday lives of the local population. It’s a bank that has its roots spreading all over the country (US) as deep as any local indigenous bank, offering diverse products, building a broad customer base, actively participating in the social community and recruiting staff and senior management from the local population and hence guaranteeing employment and stability to the economy. Apart from being committed to employees and customers all over the world, Citibank has strong brand recognition and continues to invest in technology. The leading Citigroup formed “alliances with Oracle, Commerce One, Inc., SAP AG, Wisdom Technologies and Bolero.net” to help metamorphosis of its company to an e-business model, to place itself strongly within the technology sector. In 2000, four companies got together with Citibank to form Financial Settlement Matrix.com – It is a company that connected buyers and sellers in e-marketplaces with credit, payment processing and other services through multiple participating banks and financial service companies”. Citibank is always open to adjustments to adapt to the ever-changing business environment and thus it obtains the place of one of the most successful banking chains in the world. Citibank, in its pursuit of transforming its traditional assets to digital assets has established departments necessary to manage the process. Citibank formed the Internet Operation Group which shouldered the responsibility of distributing Internet activities among e-Citi and all other business units.
Shortly after that, e-Consumer and e-Business segments were established with the aim of infusing internet to the entire customer and corporate banking activities and services. After a while, e-Capital Markets and e-Assets Management departments were also established. The e-Business unit has the task of developing the software needed to set clients up with electronic business accounts, utilizing both IT and business people. The e-workplace gave a tremendous boost to Citibank when it was in its pursuit of transitioning from the traditional way of doing business to the electronic way. Constant attention is given to development in order to make upgrades in the e-business model. The key to manage the flow of money, for its corporate consumers through the World Wide Web was delivering an integrated solution that would “enable its corporate customers to conduct transaction on-line”. Citigroup desired to be the middle intermediary between buyers and sellers for any sort of transaction. Their strength is the customer-centered approach including “response time, technology and support” which gains the confidence of the customers on the products of the bank. Citigroup is dedicated towards creating products that cater to different industries and business needs by taking appropriate steps, be it investing thousands of millions of dollars in the online technology or starting e-business groups. By the end of 2000, customers had begun demanding electronic invoicing, online payments guarantees and digital receipts stored online and automatic application of payments to account receivables. Citibank’s strategic intent is to convert its traditional money management business into an e-business framework. Porter had accorded two main ways for a company to compete on the global front. One was cost advantage and the other was differentiation (Porter, 1980). And Citibank’s strategy was not to compete on price and was bored rooted to the differentiation aspect. Since there are many other companies which market similar products and services, Citibank bases its differentiation on customer service. Traditionally, offering telephone hotlines, product consultants who provided service expertise, relationship managers who understood clients’ needs and expectations, and most important, continuous involvement in investing in technology to support both the front-end and the back-end electronic banking systems”. In order for the transformation of traditional assets into digital assets, to be successful, the company must maintain or enhance its differentiation. Since the company’s differentiation is based on customer service, that means that in the transformation from traditional to digital assets the company must continue to be highly responsive to the customers’ current and future needs and cater to the expectations of every single client without any fail or bias, and must do so to a higher level than the competition and set a higher standard than that set by the other competitors in the market. The alliance with the four companies Oracle, Commerce One, Inc., SAP AG, Wisdom Technologies and Bolero.net helped the Citigroup to transform and grow. In earlier occasions, the company had invested millions of dollars on its own in multiple areas of e-business, and had miserably failed. As technology is not Citibank’s field of expertise, it found keeping in sync dealing with constantly changing technology to be an expensive battle, which it ultimately lost. However, by 2000 Citibank learnt from its failure. Taking lessons from its experience it changed its strategy to one of garnering alliances and using its partners’ strengths to create the technological infrastructure that the company needed to access markets and meet its customers changing demands. Working through alliances increased its effectiveness, reduced Citibank’s risks and costs, and allowed it to remain pliable in meeting changing technological and customer demands. Both in the short term and long term, the customer’s demands vary. According to McCauley and Kahn (2002), one of the most important hurdles for Citibank to overcome in canalizing customers from traditional to digital service was addressing their deep seated concerns about security. While to some extent this troubled Citibank’s efforts in rolling out Web-based applications, it did actively implement “multi-layered security architecture… public and private access keys, single-use passwords and multiple authorization controls” in order to meet customer needs (McCauley and Kahn 2002, p. 9). To add to it, with digital processing it aspired to transform repeatable processes that could be “commoditized” into an efficient digital factory. The transformation of goods and services (or things that may not normally be regarded as goods or services) into a commodity is known as commoditization.
Commoditizing repeatable processes improves efficiency, but also gives scope to resources for additional regional emphasis i.e. localization. The strong brand name of Citibank is a resource that translates into increased trust as a “trusted provider” when competing with Deutche Bank and other competitors. In fact, most Fortune 500 companies assign value to Citibank’s specific offerings, and prefer it to other international payment providers. Citibank, then, offers multiple areas of value to customers. The evidences of constant work in the field of imbibing recent technologies and adjusting to the changing business environment are many. The cooperation of the software giant, Microsoft and financial giant, Citibank led to the reinforcement of high standards. “With a global network spanning more than 100 countries, Citi will benefit from this collaboration because the CitiDirect BE platform will help monetize its best-in-class service offerings and broad geographic coverage, while taking full advantage of Microsoft’s expertise in platform engineering, development of independent software vendor communities, and product life-cycle management,” read an article on internet. Thus the commitment of Citibank to deliver global services and enhanced value through world-class partnership and innovative e-business solutions that meets the customer’s expectations in very evident and worth trusting. But the question that is worth focusing on now, is whether this value translates into a competitive advantage which translates into additional profits. The focus now would shift to question how unique are the solutions offered by it. Soon the cutting edge technological capabilities might become ‘hygiene factors’ which will be considered to be required and not a competitive advantage and thus would not qualify for differentiation. Potential growths in e-business are always happening and continuous developments are indispensable. More and more companies are willing and opting to do everything from banking to purchasing to marketing online. Thus it becomes very essential for Citibank to align itself with the right partners in order to maintain their standards and their stance in the e-business sector. Company executive Tom Edgerton stated, “In the future, it won’t be what your company can do, but what the network of companies you work with can provide”. In order for Citi to continue to grow, it must evolve in its e-Business model and develop unceasing updates to its online products. Expanding on their existing good reputation, enhanced web features and exceptional customer service, would be the fundamental opportunities for Citibank. According to Edgerton, “Citibank brings considerable value to potential alliance partners. They’re interested in our brand, our financial services expertise, our global presence, our strong customer relationships and position as a trusted provider, as well as our knowledge of specific industries and international markets”. The regionalization and specialized processing centers that Citibank has developed has provided them with “scale and continual improvement opportunities”. Like all other sectors and organizations, Citibank is also dedicated towards improving information management practices. This in turn improves the efficiency of business processes, the demands of compliance reg.
- Essays, UK. (November 2018). E Business Strategy: An Analysis. Retrieved from https://www.ukessays.com/essays/business/e-business-strategy-business-essay.php?vref=1
Students are encouraged to review required books as mentioned below:
- Jelassi, T., Enders, A., & Martinez-Lopez, F.J. (2014). Strategies for E-Business: Concepts and Cases. (3rd Ed.). Harlow: Pearson. ISBN: #9780273757870, #9780273757870.
- Osterwalder, A. & Pigneur, Y. (2010). Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN# 9780470876411 (print), 9780470901038 (e-text).
Case Study Questions:
- Analyze the Citibank value Chain.
- Explain how e-banking has impacted on the primary and support activities of its value chain.
- Explain the tangible and intangible sources that could influence the differentiation strategy of Citibank.
- How could IT/e-banking assist an organization/ a bank to achieve a competitive advantage in the marketplace? Explain through the case of Citibank.