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4 wheel drive: Agile, DevSecOps, Platform & API

Covid in fact helped Citizens Financial Group to fine-tune and implement its digital strategy:

When covid started making its impact in early 2020, the Providence, Rhode Island-headquartered Citizens Financial Group was in the midst of a major digital transformation. The pandemic temporarily slowed down the pace of the transformation, yet like several financial services institution, the bank, today 13th in the list of largest banks in the U.S., had to hasten this process in order that it is not left behind in the digital journey that these institutions had to compulsorily adopt.

One of the challenges it faced then was to help it customers avail of banking services in an environment of lock downs and shut-downs. It perforce created innovative approaches like enabling customers to seamlessly interact with the bank through channels of their preference and it had to ready its staff to meet such a work environment. For the staff, the bank initiated an incentive plan what is aligned with its digital strategy. The overhaul in the HR strategy was indeed an organization-wide effort.


The lock down and the limited movement of people during the pandemic created high call volumes. The bank instantly took up a training program for tellers to support their contact center counterparts. It also faced the challenge of many of its customers not really ready to adapt to the digital channels. It overcame this situation by developing training processes to help agents address customer concerns and assist them in transitioning to mobile banking, messaging, and other digital channels. This worked and in 2020, as much as 70% of all the banking transactions took place on a mobile device, which was 65% higher than the previous year.

During 2020 and 2021, the bank had invested around $50 million to further consolidate its digital transformation and accelerate its migration to the cloud.


The bank has embarked on a ‘next-generation technology’ strategy, which has 4 main objectives: (i) speed-to-market, (ii) operational efficiency, (iii) innovation, and (iv) stability. The bank is achieving these objectives by working in an agile way with a DevSecOps model; implementing Platform as a Service using data and APIs; enhancing its engineering talent and tools; and remaining focused on protecting its core operations.

The bank strongly believes that having the right talent and an operating model where engineers are embedded in the business as well as Agile teams that are working to solve problems is key.

The digital transformation and implementation of the NGT strategy did not suffer during the pandemic and the technology teams were able to adapt and shift about 70% of the colleague base to a work-at-home model in 3 weeks.

The bank’s digital-only service, Citizens Access is unique effort. It is described as a best tool for those who want to earn a great rate on a high-yield savings account or certificate of deposit (CD) and do not need to access their money regularly. The digital unit has seen high growth, driving over $1 billion in deposits within the first 3 months after launch, and reached $5.4 billion in of Q2 2019. The bank is now planning to replicate this success for its commercial clients and has introduced accessOPTIMA, a new cash management platform for corporate clients, and started migrating current clients to the new offering.

In the wealth management space, the bank has a digital investment advice platform – SpeciFi – since 2017. This is being operated in partnership with SigFig. The SpeciFi service is also integrated into the bank’s online banking platform.

The bank had introduced its first customer-facing AI-based chatbot during the pandemic. What is unique about the chatbot is that it is text-based and has a stop/start capability, enabling consumers to step away to deal with a child or other situation and come back to where they left off. A key feature is being able to seamlessly hand-off to a live agent or to a branch staffer when a deeper discussion is needed.


Citizens Bank had started creating a cloud set-up and configuration in 2015 and incorporated Oracle HCM Cloud into its processes. Over the year, it has completed the implementation of Workforce Compensation, Performance Management, Recruiting & Onboarding, Core HR, Payroll/Time/Absence, and HR Data Hub & Analytics.

In subsequent years, the bank started migrating to the cloud with the main aim of modernizing its IT practices. Its back-office infrastructure is already on the cloud and it hopes to have risk processes too on the cloud soon.


The bank has recently aligned with Mastercard making the latter its exclusive payments provider. Mastercard is now the bank’s exclusive services provider and payment network across Citizen’s credit, debit and commercial portfolios. The 2 entities will work to develop new products supporting both consumer and business payments. This includes using open banking technology to improve customers’ financial access and control over their data, employing digital identity solutions to mitigate fraud and deploying commercial solutions to streamline B2B payments.

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This article has been compiled based on publicly available information on the web, particularly the bank’s own website.

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