Janine Copelin: seeking the globally minded consumer

Citibank’s new head of sales and distribution tells MPA why she’s partnering with brokers to target a very specific client.

Citibank’s new head of sales and distribution tells MPA why she’s partnering with brokers to target a very specific client: the globally minded affluent consumer.

MPA: There are a lot of non-major lenders out there; it’s a very competitive market. What is Citibank’s main point of difference in your opinion?
Janine Copelin:
I think the main point of difference for Citibank is the fact they have a very well-known brand globally. That global footprint gives us opportunities that local brands don’t necessarily have. We also partner with others very well.

So we don’t try to be everything to everyone; what we do is recognise who in the industry do things very well
and leverage that … We then go about personalising and tailoring offers to our customers.

MPA: What has been your strategy for Citibank in the third-party channel since arriving at the bank?
JC: One thing that I do identify, having come into sales and distribution, is that we partner very well with brokers, and have done so for several years; and brokers really trust Citibank, and they really trust the service that we give to our customers.

Citibank and our third-party business have a very high-touch model; I think one of the things I’ve identified though, coming in, and where we can certainly look to improve, is to ensure that we don’t go out there just looking to bank a product, but that we actually really make sure that we bank a customer.

By that I mean that it would be a shame if we worked very diligently with our brokers but all we did was get a mortgage and not expose the customers to all the other really cool products that we have; specifically, the rewards and dining programs that we have with our credit cards is honestly second to none. If I think about some of the products that we offer in our investment space, it really does give customers the opportunity to diversify their portfolio, whilst I don’t think that’s a common strategy you’d have in your mass-market retail banks.

MPA: Are there systems in place for brokers to refer clients to these services?
We work very closely with aggregators and work very closely with brokers. I have a team of
BDMs and their job is not just to work with the aggregators but to go out there with the brokers and educate them on what Citibank has to offer; they educate them on what the segment offering is, and also ensure that when we onboard a customer it’s an absolutely seamless, remarkable customer experience. And those BDMs are across every state in Australia.

MPA: What is the globally minded affluent customer? Why is Citibank interested in them, and why should brokers be?
I think that one of the opportunities Citibank has, where it’s second to none, is global brand awareness. So if you think about the migrant numbers that are coming into Australia, I think we’ve
got a unique opportunity to educate migrants coming into Australia on how to get them into the property market, and do it in a seamless way.

One of the things we like to do with our brokers is help them understand what that service
proposition is, and why the offering that we have at Citibank is very well tailored to that market.
We’ve got migrants coming in from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, the UK, South Africa and New Zealand. That’s a broad mix of migrants coming in that are very familiar with the Citi brand; it’s dominant in their countries.

One of the strategies Citibank has is the ‘Go to Common’ strategy. What that really means for a customer, irrespective of where you are, is if you want to do four months overseas and work and
then come back here, it should just be the same experience, no matter what country you’re in, mindful of the fact that there are certain regulatory differences between countries.

But ultimately, for me as a consumer, I want you to know me; I don’t want to have to re-explain myself if I’ve moved to the UK or moved to Australia; I have an expectation that Citibank knows me, and that integration into Australia is seamless for me.

MPA: How can brokers present Citibank’s offering to customers? What should they highlight? 
Citibank has a very high-touch service when it comes to mortgages, which is quite different to other banks; other banks have gone very much down the digitisation strategy. Whilst we’re exploring digital and we still want to have that as a channel offering, we pride ourselves on making sure that
the customer is at the centre of the experience.

For a broker, it’s very much about them understanding what that experience looks like. Our brokers are very well educated and know that customers with $100,000 and over in savings have an opportunity to be onboarded into Citigold … In addition, we’ve just launched Citi Priority, which really looks at offering a service proposition and priority service for customers with $50,000 in savings and above. And so my job is to understand what the sweet spot is for our target audience.

MPA: What other types of finance might those globally minded affluent consumers be interested in?
One thing that I’ve thoroughly loved coming over to Citibank for is the suite of different offerings that are available to investors around diversification. And I’m not talking just in the sophisticated investor space; I am talking about everyday mums and dads who may have invested in property but also want to have something that’s a little different to what they have today.

Secondly, we also offer products that are in a higher yield than just cash term deposits. So I think our customers and our brokers really love the fact that we bring something more to the table for our customers … it gives them the opportunity to not put all their eggs in one basket.

We’re in an all-time low interest rate environment at the moment, so it doesn’t necessarily make good investment sense for someone to put all their funds in a term deposit, locked away. It does make more sense that they would explore what other yield opportunities are out there in the market.

MPA: You’ve spoken of the need for more young brokers. How can Citibank help bring new talent
into broking?

JC: It comes back to partnering; we do like to partner with aggregators and the MFAA, businesses and organisations that really support bringing fresh talent into the market. I’m personally very passionate about bringing in young brokers and also want to make sure that we offer educational opportunities through my BDMs out in the field, and also working with brokers who are already there.

Typically, it’s been an industry where you go into a lending organisation for a number of years, and then you branch out into broking; I would love to see young brokers seeing this as an attractive industry to come into straight away, and I think they bring something quite unique because they clearly think outside the square.

They’re not conservative – they’re innovative. They embrace technology; they embrace digital; they’re adopters of change. There’s so much that works in favour of them coming into the industry and bringing something fresh into the market.

They’re just very passionate and genuine about putting the customer at the centre of everything they do. I think sometimes when people have been around for a long time and they’re just so used to constraints that they try to fit the customers into processes that just don’t work these days, whereas the young guns come in and challenge the status quo.

MPA: How would you like Citibank to be viewed by the third-party channel 12 months from now? 
I want Citibank to be seen as an integral part of the broker business within Australia. I don’t think Citibank has ever intended to be mass-market, but what I do want to be is the very best at offering a remarkable customer experience for those customers that fall within our segment.

I think it’s absolutely achievable. I think it will require us to be very vocal out there in the industry,
and work closely and partner, probably more than we ever have, with brokers and aggregators to really understand what it is that these customers want and need.

… There are a lot of players in the market that are out there to grow market share in mortgages;
that’s not our play … I think we have a really unique opportunity in the market where we have a strong and trusted brand globally, and we really do make sure that everything we do represents what’s best for the customer.