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Citibank: Caught Sleeping! | blog.deanland.com

Citibank: Caught Sleeping!

Citibank: Caught Sleeping!

Back when they used this logo, Citibank was a leading edge institution.

Citibank: the Clueless Institution. Now that they've adopted this logo, which is supposed to represent its merger with Traveler's Group (get it, the umbrella over Citi?) they are less leading edge than they used to be.  Tough noogies on the consumers, eh?

Since its inception, my company has been banking with Citibank. The account was opened in a main branch in Manhattan, although I nearly always use the local branch close by here in Rockland County. Originally set up by a bank officer at the Manhattan branch, one of the reasons to do my business banking there was the large international portfolio and amount of business Citi does overease, as well as low-cost bank fees, and no charges on incoming and outgoing wires.

Iím in a business that transacts much of its business via wire transfer, including the way my company would be paid for its services. Often we would do joint ventures or multi-partner (multi-layered, sometimes derisively known as the daisy chain!) deals. In almost all of those events, my company would take the responsibility of billing and distribution of allocated shares of payment(s).

On the one hand, this means all sorts of responsibility, work, calculating and figuring, sometimes chasing down the payments, and handling internal multi-company/partner squabbles. The good side of this, though, is that my companyís reputation is spotless, and our colleagues trust us to bill, receive, and properly distribute the funds.

Citibank, a major international institution, seemed just the perfect bank for us. My attorney had helped set up the account, and the Citibank officer (and her protÈgÈ) were very helpful as we set up various aspects and services of doing business with Citibank.

Among the neat and attractive offerings was Citibanks Business Access program, via which one can access oneís account on-line. Transaction records, bill paying, all sorts of the usual features of an on-line banking service.

I rather like Citibankís Business Access. It is the least sexy financial institution program Iíve ever seen. One of the things I liked most about it was the simplicity of graphic interface, the lack of bells and whistles, the pure workman-like quality of it all. Also, the program doesnít badger or attack or attempt to advertise to or rope in the user with useless banners, ads, notifications of bank promotions, etc. A pure and simple account application. Very nice.

Actually, it looked a whole lot like an old DOS application. As one who thought DOS was the catís meow, and who still thinks Windows could be improved if it would just work within DOS (I remain a keyboard kind of guy, more so than a mouse-user sort of fellowÖthatís my predisposition, and maybe has something to do with growing up liking typewriters, especially those IBM Selectrics!), this DOS-like program hit the spot, did the job, warmed my heart. Except for those times Iíd log on and see how low the balance was gettingÖ

Then last week I got DSL. Uh-oh, danger, Will Robinson.

To use Citibankís Business Access, one had to log on directly to the mainframe, using a specific dial-up account. No logging on while surfing the net, not with Business Access. I might point out that any number of other Citibank on-line products can be used from oneís Internet connection. But not Business Access.

I called the Citibank Business Access Helpline to ask how I get on using my DSL line. You know, DSL, always hooked up, always on line, no down time. No more dial ups, no more specific numbers. Always connected, 24/7.

The woman from Customer Service who answered the call just started to laugh. No way to get to the program using DSL, she explains. But gee, I say, isnít Citibank on the leading edge, the company that got with Netscapeís billing back 6 or so years ago, the institution so far ahead of the banking community in electronic access?

Well, so they like to think, the woman explains to me, between chortles. It seems that she gets about 20 calls a day from Business Access clients who have converted to DSL, and also a few calls each month from businesses that have installed a T-1 line. In each case, the constant connectivity, the faster online access and loading speed, the leading edge.

But no, despite all the discussion, the various Veeps who have been charged with seeing that Business Access joins the high-speed connected world, the committees, the mandates, the enterprise solution teams, the consultantsÖit never gets done.

Her advice? Have a spare computer with a modem, and access the account using the old method!

Talk about cluelessness! As a company makes a technical advance, in some cases a quantum leap, Citibank is less able to service the account with on-line information and applications.

The Citibank ad campaigns, for years, would say and sing, ìThe Citi Never Sleeps!î

Right, of course. Because if it did, it would then wake up. And it would be a new day. And Citibank is not ready to face the new day. At least not the day of DSL, T-1, or 24/7 connectivity.

And these are the self-described "new paradigm bankers" holding my money!

One last point: like all of these monolithic institutions, the key feature that attracted me to Citibank managed to disappear about two years ago: now they charge me an incoming and outgoing wire fee. So the main attraction became a thing of the past. Kind of like the way one must use Business Access.

Wake up, Citibank! Get a clue!