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Citi's Kietz Says Customer Experience Makes the Difference in Mobile

Citi's new m-banking venture allows 'intrapreneur' Steven Kietz to put the customer into every step of the product development process.

Kietz warns, however, that there might be customers who actually prefer the five-click path to their favorite features. "The technology to do all this is there, but you just need to build up the information to make these kinds of decisions," he says. "You eventually want to build technology to be self-service. This is one area where customers like being in control."

On the Road to E-Commerce

Perhaps Kietz's marketing background is responsible for his drive to cater to customers with technology. He got his start in the business world in 1979 as a graduate with a political science degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton working for a database marketing company. "I spent four years there in marketing lists and selling and learning," he says. "I also started my M.B.A. at Baruch College at night." While at Baruch Kietz also made it a point to take some computer science classes. "As early as 1982 I realized that one day all of our jobs would be computer jobs," he explains.

It wasn't until the mid-1980s that Kietz entered financial services. He was still doing marketing, but it was in the retail group at Citi in what would turn out to be his first stint with the bank. Nearly 20 years later, with Chase, Kietz made his first foray into e-commerce. "In 2004 I made my real e-commerce move during the Chase/Bank One merger," he relates. "I was responsible for the e-commerce work coming out of the card area."

Like any good executive, Kietz surrounds himself with the right kinds of people to help get the job done. He credits one of his many mentors, Steven Freiberg, CEO of Citi Global Cards, as probably the greatest influence on his management style. "He always figured out ways to maximize the contributions of the people around him," Kietz relates. "He inspired me to do the same. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it."

To that end, Kietz says he looks to five guiding principles as he leads people: Consider how the company will make money, remember that the business is about getting and keeping customers, stick to the strategy, try to learn something new each day and have fun.

It's this last point that is probably most important to Kietz as someone who has to be on call all the time. "I'm a start-up CEO 24x7. If there were more than 24 hours, I'd work more than 24 hours. But that's how you make the dream come true," he relates. "I do take my work home with me, but I don't believe in tossing and turning over it. You've got to let go. But the technology does follow you around these days."

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