Story Portfolio


Executive blog

A banking tech leader shows how corporate messaging aligns with his team’s day-to-day duties.

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Thought Leadership

A digital banking leader talks about the “human equation” in a world dominated by technology.

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Communicating Transformation

An operations leader provides a transformation update to his global team.

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A senior executive says goodbye to her team.

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Intranet Content

An internal article on a corporate Intranet highlights a corporate-sponsored community event in Newtown, Connecticut (The actual names of the employees have been changed for privacy reasons).

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News Release

Yoga studio offers release from "Election Day" stress.

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Executive Blog

I recently read an intriguing opinion piece in the New York Times by a physicist named Leonard Mlodinow, who argues that hyperactivity and shorter attention spans may have evolved as a human response for coping with rapid change. When his own son showed signs of hyperactive behavior, Dr. Mlodinow spoke to his mother about his plans to put him on medication.  She vehemently objected. In Yiddish, no less. “Look how fast the world is changing,” she said. “He doesn’t need to slow down. You need to speed up.”

Driving change

Her observation was spot on.  We certainly are experiencing rapid change.  In fact, during my last town hall in Jacksonville, I used the word “change” 33 times (I checked the transcript to make sure).  For a group like ours, the natural source of change is technology, but I would argue something bigger is at stake, not because of technology alone, but because of what technology means—both in our role within the business and in our impact in how we can interact with our customers.

Citi is now at a point where we can truly “be the best” for our customers.  We have been essentially playing a stout defense over the past decade, not unlike my beloved Sydney Swans football team, but now we are in a position to grow our business—and a significant amount of that growth will come by using technology to better understand our customers and help them become co-creators of the financial solutions we deliver. In addition, technology allows us to overhaul the entire production process. We will introduce more financial solutions—that are still safe and secure—but faster, cheaper and more ubiquitous than ever before.

More than just a function

Technology is not simply a function. It is an inherent part of the business, and we need to adopt that “one team” mindset wholeheartedly. Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, makes the point that technology people are in the efficiency business, not simply because technology helps replace manual processes with automated ones, but because we can provide the data and the insights that can lead to smart decision-making.

If we can use APIs to create strong digital relationships with online and mobile platforms that encourage financial activity, then Citi can be an everywhere, anytime bank that allows its customers to interact with us in multiple ways. If we can use data to understand our customers and give insights to achieve financial wellness, then Citi can become a life partner that makes it less intimidating to our clients to “welcome what’s next.” And if we can use artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation to better understand what jobs and talent we need to have to best compete in today’s hyperactive environment, then Citi can stay ahead of the curve as we seek sustained growth.

Exciting times indeed.  Technology has an opportunity to be an active participant in the discussion around where we want to go as a bank and how we will get there.  But only if we take the time to heed Ms. Mlodinow’s sound advice.

Thought Leadership

A few weeks ago, a group of scientists got a lot of media attention when they released a list of the 12 most likely ways the world will come to an end.  I’m sure the researchers put a lot of thought into this, although the list feels like stolen plot lines from various movies and TV shows—meteors falling from the sky, massive volcanos, nuclear war, and pandemics (zombies, anyone?)

The one doomsday scenario that caught my attention naturally involves digital—the threat of artificial intelligence.  What happens when computers become smart enough to decide that they don’t need humans anymore?  Hollywood once dreamed up that scenario, too. Another Terminator movie is slated for this summer.

A banking apocalypse?

I do understand that some peoples may feel threatened by digital solutions that they worry might make their own human services obsolete.  About 20 years ago, Bill Gates said we’ll always need banking, but not necessarily banks.  That’s an apocalyptic thought, too, and if we aren’t careful, we could easily become just like utilities that simply hold our customers’ money or provide them credit. When customers view us as merely custodians, how will they see the value in their relationship with us so that they become promoters of our bank? 

We know that digital can be a true marketplace disrupter, and we know that our customers, especially digital natives, have a growing appetite for mobile banking options.

But all the technology in the world can’t erase the fact that money is an intensely personal thing, and that if we want to be truly customer-centric in our approach, we need to find the right intersection between providing a digital and human experience.  We have to be there when customers need us.

Humans wanted

Years ago, Amazon, a true leader in digital commerce, relied too heavily on its digital capabilities for customer support, and it hurt them.  Now they are selling products that allow you direct access to human support by just touching a button on the Kindle device.

Without great humans, we will lose in the digital space. You can spend years building a great brand and rolling out great digital services, but all that goodwill can disappear in minutes if a customer doesn’t have someone in a branch or on the phone to get them on the right track if they need help.

Digital is an enhancement, not a replacement, and by ensuring we provide our customer service people with the right tools and training, we can always count on them to offer value to our clients. And there is nothing artificial about that. 

Communicating Transformation

Our most recent Ops Talk gave me an opportunity to discuss our “must-win battles” for 2015, with a special emphasis on our “Go to Common” initiative.  Here are a few things raised in that call that bear repeating.

Getting to common involves more than just improving processes—I invited three GCB O&T leaders to join our call to make it clear that our Operations and Technology teams also share common, global objectives.  They offered specific examples of collaboration between our two teams, such as finishing the Avatar initiative in Mexico, accelerating customer onboarding by increasing our use of automation, and identifying ways we can get the most out of Rainbow in the countries where it is—and will be—deployed. In sum, our overall success depends upon how we work together.

We’re seeing strong signs that we’ve moved beyond the talking stage—Our ongoing consumer O&T transformation effort is showing some good traction as we move from planning to execution.  We’re no longer just talking about how we’ll deliver remarkable experiences. We’re actually doing it, which is just one reason why we’re currently 12% ahead of our goal for improving our bottom-up NPS scores by 1,500 basis points over a three-year period.  We should all be proud of the gains we have made so far.

Change is a team sport—Putting customers’ needs first often results in reassessing the way services are developed and delivered.  That doesn’t mean our past processes were bad, but many of them reflect an uncoordinated, inconsistent way of doing things that distracts from our global strategy. And here’s something important to remember. We can’t expect new processes to automatically get us where we want to go. All of us have to show a willingness to do things differently and adopt these processes as our new “business as usual.”

The finish line is also the starting line—When we get to common (and I expect we’ll implement 50% of our common processes by year end), our work won’t be done.  We’ll still need a disciplined approach to R&D, so that we can protect all the progress we have made while keeping pace with the changing demands of our customers. Meeting this challenge will require a system of governance that controls future process changes without stifling great, creative ideas.

And while most of the Ops Talk focused on “Go to Common,” our other “must-win battles”—delivering remarkable experiences, building a culture around execution and ethics, and ensuring we travel down a path of strong—are equally as important. We don’t use the term “must-win” lightly.  Our overall success in 2015 depends on us treating each “must-win battle” with the same level of commitment, and they will be the focus of our discussions for the remainder of the year.

If you didn’t have a chance to listen to the original call, I’ve included a link to the audio playback here.  And if you have questions or additional feedback to offer, please use the comment section below.


Well…I guess we are at the 40-minute mark---and I made a bet with Sue that I could get this far without getting too emotional about all this.

Recently, I attended our CI Intern breakfast.  I’ve always loved this event, because you see before you the bright young minds of a new generation—eager to put their mark on the world.  And it gives you great comfort to know that New York Life will continue to prosper and succeed, because it will continue to attract and retain the best people in our industry.

All of you in this room and on this call attest to that.

I really love New York Life—the people…the work….the unique qualities that makes this Company so different from others. I was thinking the other day how I still go to lunch with many of the same friends I had when I began my tenure here 34 years ago.  People really care about each other here, share their lives, and grow professionally. 

New York Life is a company that offers so much promise to so many people—from our policy holders to our employees—and I’m so proud that I can say it was a part of my life for these past 34 years.

I don’t think anyone really knows where life’s journey will lead them.  I didn’t even start in the technology field—never imagined that I would have the opportunity to lead such a great group.  I was lucky that I had managers who saw something in me—and gave me their support and encouragement throughout all of the successes and challenges.

But I also think that individual success is never accidental.  We make our own luck—through our talents, our hard work, and our willingness to try difficult things and to be flexible when opportunities come along.

And when faced with business decisions, when we focus on making the right decisions for the Company, that’s when we really succeed. 

Those who know me well know that I have a little saying I always keep in mind when making business decisions – and since this is probably the last time I get to use it, I’ll share it one more time with all of you.

New York Life first, CI second, and your own personal needs third.

I have based every decision I have made here in CI on how I can best enable the growth, success and stability of the Company as a whole, then CI, then myself.  It’s an approach based upon the simple idea that when the Company does well, we all do well.

If you truly adopt that approach for all decisions concerning your work, you cannot fail, because you will be prioritizing in the right order.

Doing things to first help New York Life as a whole to succeed, will lead to success for CI, and in turn, for you and your colleagues.  

And in the end, your decision to put the priorities of the Company and the team first will have an interesting residual effect.  The values that we hold so dear here at New York Life—such as acting with integrity and humanity to earn the trust of our policyholders—will surely become your values as well…

New York Life performs little miracles every day—providing comfort and support to policyholders when they are at their most vulnerable.  They count on us.  And to know that we are the Company they keep—and trust—leaves a good feeling.

And I too have a good feeling about all of you.  You’re going to do great.  

Goodbye is a funny term.  It first came into vogue in the Middle Ages, when the times were a lot more dangerous than they are now—and you literally took your life in your hands when you travelled.  Goodbye is actually short for “God be with you.”  It’s meant to show how much you care about someone and how eager you are to see them again.

So I really mean it in the traditional sense, when I say goodbye to all of you. I know we’ll stay in touch…and I know I’ll be back around…I want to take advantage of that free lunch in the cafeteria.

Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication.  

Goodbye and good luck.

Intranet Content

Ringing in the New Year with Kindness

On a bitterly cold morning, Community Development State Director Jane Dublin huddled with her Citi colleagues at a local park in Newtown, Connecticut with 100 other volunteers, ready to spread “kindness” across a community still grieving after a shooting rampage at a local school.

Jane reflected on the sub-freezing temperatures as she patiently waited to receive a paper bag containing handmade wind chimes constructed with loving care by the Tucson-based non-profit, Ben’s Bells, which had organized the event.

“I know it’s a chilly morning, but I have really warm feelings about the day,” she said. “It’s wonderful to be around so many people who care about this community.”

“Ben’s Bells” is the brainchild of Jeannette Mare, who began creating the ‘bells’ shortly after the sudden death of her two-year-old son.  What began as a therapeutic exercise of personal grieving grew into a broader response to the many acts of kindness that she received during this difficult time.  Her idea organically evolved into a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging people around the world to “be kind.”

“Our mission is to inspire, educate, and motivate each other to realize how much impact a little kindness can be,” said Citigroup Vice President John Smith, who serves on the board of directors and traveled across the country to participate in the Newtown event.  John manages communications at Citi’s Tucson site.

He noted that each bell is painstakingly created by at least 10 people.  “The truly unique thing is that we make the distribution of these bells random, and anyone who sees one can take it.”  He smiled when he pointed out that he hasn’t yet gotten one directly.

As board president, John has participated in the non-profit’s rapid growth. He helped coordinate the Newtown event, which Citi sponsored by donating breakfast and lunch for the volunteers.  Citi volunteers from five states participated in the massive effort to distribute 1,000 bells throughout Newtown in just one day.

John helped introduce Ben’s Bells to participants at last year’s Leadership in Excellence Awards.  Gail Goodheart, who attended the event in Phoenix at the invitation of her sister-in-law, lives in Newtown and became an enthusiastic supporter of the group’s visit to her home town.


“It’s a wonderful act of kindness, showing everyone that they are loved,” she told a local TV reporter.

Citigroup Managing Director Jim Banker, who works in nearby Stamford, Connecticut, has participated in a number of events during his 20 years within the company, but he could not remember anything as moving as this one.

“As I was hanging each bell, I wondered who might discover it, take it down, and cherish it.  I hope that when they read the message on the bell about spreading kindness that it will put a smile on their faces and bring hope into their lives in the aftermath of such a horrible tragedy,” he said.

News Release

Stressed Out by the Elections? Try Free Yoga!

Sacred Simplicity Yoga Learning Center in Tinton Falls, NJ to Offer Free Classes Nov. 2-4

TINTON FALLS (NJ), October 26, 2018—If the election season has you stressed out, Sacred Simplicity Yoga Learning Center of Tinton Falls has the antidote for you—free yoga and meditation classes!

“We thought the timing of these classes are perfect,” says Lisa Horan Sockol, a Holmdel resident who owns and operates Sacred Simplicity.  “The political season is always a stressful time, as candidates compete for our attention, and many of us find ourselves defending and debating our views.  These classes give you a chance to take a break from all of that.  Remember, peace comes from within.”

Political-free zone

Sacred Simplicity is holding a series of free sessions throughout the weekend of November 2 to November 4.  Classes include Therapeutic Yoga, Kids Yoga, Yoga for Stress Management, and mini workshops given by leading holistic health professionals.  During the workshops, attendees can enjoy a relaxing massage, a reiki attunement, group hypnosis, and much more.  Classes will take place at Monmouth Therapy Associates, One Executive Drive, Suite 14 in Tinton Falls.

More than just a series of postures

A life-long learner in the yoga arts, Horan Sockol received her 200-hour yoga teaching certificate through YogaWorks in 2013 with Laurel Beversdorf, NYC (Laurel Yoga).  She is certified in Restorative Yoga, Yoga for Special Needs, and Mindful Yoga for Anxiety in Teens and Adults.  Horan Sockol also offers private lessons for individuals and small groups.  

“Many people are not aware that yoga is more than just a way to meditate,” says Horan Sockol. “Yoga is actually a philosophy written thousands of years ago to help release suffering in the lives of all human beings.  Thus, the goal of yoga is to claim inner peace no matter what binds you externally.”