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A look at Latin America

Last month on CTMfile, we covered how Citi was seeing some success with its digital onboarding programme. Now, Citi Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) Latin America has announced that it has added five new countries to its Digital Onboarding platform, while also seeing significant uptake in digital adoption in the first quarter of the year as the bank has been supporting clients’ contingency situations during the pandemic. Highlights include:

  • 300% increase in the number of banking accounts opened digitally.
  • 45% increase in digital banking platform activations.

“Three years ago, we set ourselves the challenge to become Latin America’s digital bank by the end of 2020," said Steve Donovan, Latin America Treasury and Trade Solutions head. "This meant not simply digitising the way that clients interact with us at the front end, but end-to-end, across the entire bank. This digital investment has been critical to supporting our clients effectively during both good times and bad, particularly as they move rapidly to business continuity mode and tackle a new and unprecedented set of challenges.”

CitiDirect BE Digital Onboarding

First introduced in Latin America in Brazil in 2019, CitiDirect BE Digital Onboarding enables Citi’s clients to open additional or new banking accounts digitally in as quickly as two days, using electronic signatures and supported by a streamlined documentation process.

The digital account opening experience for institutional clients is now available in 41 countries globally, including six in Latin America with the following five markets launched last month: 

  • Colombia.
  • Peru.
  • Ecuador.
  • Panama.
  • Puerto Rico. 

The bank says that the solution will be rolled out to six more countries in September this year. Additionally, usage across all client-facing digital channels has grown over the first quarter of 2020 in Latin America, as clients switch to continuity-of-business (COB) modes, with remote work during the pandemic.

Corporates have activated COB plans, and have had to rapidly reassess current payment methods, processes, risks and controls, and digitise manual processes. They are expanding their use of Citi platforms for a remote workforce, including mobile apps and use of biometrics, as well as digitising documentation and moving to electronic signatures to complete the onboarding process.

“Every bank wants to be a digital bank, but this typically means opening up mobile capabilities to clients,” said Driss Temsamani, head of Digital Channels, Citi TTS Latin America. ”At Citi, our digital banking strategy has been transformative across every aspect of our own operations, as well as client engagement. This has led to the development of a highly integrated channels strategy, but also industry first solutions such as digital onboarding. While the growth in digital adoption has steadily increased over recent years with the consumerisation of corporate experiences, the adoption of CitiDirect BE digital solutions has accelerated even faster as a result of the pandemic. There has been 45% growth in CitiDirect BE (Citi’s online/mobile banking platform for institutional clients) on an annual basis between March 2019 and March 2020 in Latin America.”

Citi’s digital onboarding solutions have enabled clients to set up new accounts and overcome major obstacles due to the pandemic, both domestically and overseas. Clients can complete the process of account opening using electronic signatures, with streamlined documentation.

Adoption of digital channels

The CitiDirect BE platform provides access to global transaction capabilities, featuring capabilities for both desktop and mobile. These include simplified payments, biometric authentication, chat, and co-browse capabilities with a service representative.

CitiConnect API usage has also surged in volume over the last year as many companies move towards seamless, real-time integration. In Latin America, e-commerce clients whose businesses are currently seeing rapid growth in volumes are driving adoption of APIs and increase in activity. The ongoing digitisation efforts of companies across different industries, particularly non-bank financial institutions, is also driving this trend in the region.

Working capital firm joins the fray

Elsewhere in Latin America news, Greensill, a provider of working capital finance, has acquired Omni, a major Latin American digital lender to SMEs. Greensill research shows that the market for working capital finance in Latin America is worth US$750bn and the addition of Omni’s technology platform and growing portfolio of products and clients will result in a step-change in Greensill’s capabilities in the region.

Omni was founded in 2018 by fintech pioneers Diego Caicedo and Andrés Abumohor. The company provides digital working capital solutions to SME suppliers of large companies in Chile and Colombia.

In the past three years, Omni has provided US$300m of financial solutions to more than 5,000 clients. In 2019, Greensill provided US$143bn of finance to more than 8 million customers and suppliers in more than 175 countries. Volumes, year on year, increased by 73% in the first quarter of 2020 as demand continued to rise.

"Latin America is a highly attractive growth market for us and the acquisition of Omni will significantly expand our capabilities in this important region," said Lex Greensill, founder and CEO of Greensill. "Together we will ensure that SMEs across Latin America have the fairest access to finance available.”

Greensill research has identified a global addressable market for working capital finance valued at US$56.3 trillion. Latin America accounts for some US$750 billion of this total. World Bank data shows that SMEs across Latin America account for more than 20% of the global unbanked market, which means entrepreneurs and suppliers all over the region struggle to find fair finance.

“Both of our companies were founded with similar business philosophies and ambitions, and this transaction will allow Omni to accelerate our growth plans in the Latin American market, while also benefiting from Greensill’s expertise and global capabilities," added Diego Caicedo, Omni co-founder.

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