Citibank Korea will challenge the current adverse conditions in the banking industry with a new business model for wealth management instead of seeking quantitative growth, said CEO Park Jin-hei on Thursday.
Despite falling profits this year, Park has decided to focus on materializing a new concept of wealth management and "smarter mobile banking" for Korean consumers, and has come up with a noticeable outcome -- opening of the country's largest wealth management centre in Cheongdam in the affluent southern area of Seoul and a new mobile banking application that doesn't require the public identity certification process.
"We are about halfway through our goals three years later," Park said at a press conference held at the Cheongdam centre.
"Rather than focusing on short-term performances, for example by increasing loans sales to boost profits, I am more focused on materializing a new banking model here."
"Our board members have allowed me to do so, and I will concentrate on meeting customers' needs and avoid reckless growth, by which I believe we are contributing to stabilizing the country's financial system," the CEO added.
As part of the three-year plan, Citibank Korea has opened a five-story wealth management centre in Cheongdam-dong in Gangnam, equipped with about 70 financial experts and staffers and smart banking services optimized for better wealth management.
The Cheongdam centre is the second wealth management centre by Citibank Korea after its success with the first attempt with the Banpo centre in Seocho last year, the bank said.
On the first floor of the new centre, there is no bank clerk counter. Instead, Citi's next-generation clerks, dubbed "Universal Bankers," freely walk around with customers and provide consultations and execute transactions via touch screen sales walls, workbenches and signing pads.
The fourth and fifth floor of the centre provide high-end private consulting rooms for customers with over 1 billion won ($856,000) in assets.
The Korea branch of the US-headquartered financial group also introduced New Citi Mobile, a smartphone banking app that enables users to transact with just their ID and fingerprint without public certificates.
"There has been no such banking app that does so without public certificates, even though the Financial Services Commission lifted the regulation in April," said Kim Min-kwon, in charge of the digital banking solutions.
"Requirement of the public certificates have been making Koreans' financial activities very abnormal, and we will normalise our customers' financial lives."
The new app offers Snapshot and Repeat Transfers functions, features new to Korea, Kim said.
Snapshot displays deposit and card balances, as well as transaction details and fund returns when the user runs the app, without even having to sign in.
Repeat Transfers allow customers to choose and click the account they want to transfer money to again from their transaction history without inputting any additional information.
"In the digital era, all customers have a bank branch in their pockets," said Brendan Carney, consumer banking head of Citibank Korea.
"With the Cheongnam centre and this new mobile platform, we will see the role of branch changing in a way that customers manage their financial lives better."
As for the bank's plan to impose maintenance fees for customers that hold Citibank accounts but do not use them often, Carney said, "We are not introducing the fees in order to add fees to customers, but to increase digital relations with them.
Those who engage with us through the mobile app will not be subject to the fees."