CMO50 #23: Linda Duncombe, Citi

  • Name Linda Duncombe
  • Title Managing Director - marketing, digital and customer experience
  • Company Citi
  • Commenced role MD since December 2011; director from Jan 2010
  • Reporting Line CEO
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function More than 30 staff, 9 direct reports
  • Related

    Citi’s MD of marketing, digital and customer experience, Linda Duncombe, says her marketing function is awash with numerous skillsets, from brand and marketing to digital banking, data and analytics and customer experience. Such diversity of thinking is a key competitive advantage, she says.

    “It’s our power to come together as one team that has me confident that we will achieve over and above our strategy,” she says.

    Duncombe has been with the banking group for more than five years, and was originally tasked with developing a profile and personality that fit Citibank’s more targeted customer agenda. The newly created role also brought together marketing, digital and customer experience for the first time.

    Prior to Citi, Duncombe was in business banking at NAB, where she ran strategy marketing and sales. Her ongoing ambition is to create the best-in class, digital first, marketing function of any organisation.

    “It’s also about cultivating a strong brand. We’re striving to be recognised as industry thought leaders and don’t see ourselves as being limited to financial services,” she says.

    Empowered and long-term thinking

    To do this, Duncombe has a clear list of strategic priorities. Firstly, it’s about delivering a remarkable customer journey, from a fully-digitised on-boarding experience through to rewards experiences.

    Innovating in the digital space is another pillar. “We are teaming up with savvy developers to ensure our apps are ahead of the game, making our customers’ lives as convenient as possible,” she says.

    “It’s also about optimising partnerships to enhance customer experience, and leveraging our global platform. We have a unique global infrastructure, something not many banks have, and it’s something we’re using more and more to give us the competitive edge.”

    In addition, Duncombe says the team prides itself on building Citi’s brand’s reputation. The final pillar of the marketing strategy is being an industry thought leader.

    “We don’t see ourselves as being limited to financial services. Our aim is to be there innovating and influencing everywhere our customers are - from food to travel and entertainment and more,” she says.

    Driving innovation

    In a similar vein, Duncombe says innovation shouldn’t be enclosed by the industry in which you operate.

    “It’s about thinking outside of banking and bravely of testing, learning and trying new things often found outside of banking,” she says. “It’s the same for our customers, who are no longer benchmarking banks against each other but against international players such as Amazon.”

    Top marketing attributes

    CMOs today need to take a creative and innovative approach to the role in order to effectively meet the level of disruption embracing the channels in which they operate, Duncombe continues.

    “With that comes a strong sense of curiosity and resilience in order to be able to enjoy learning and better understanding customer behaviour,” she says. “Learn from the customer by embracing the wealth of data now available in order to better meet customer needs and understand the right channels for communication.”

    From the CMO50 submission

    Business contribution and innovation

    One of Duncombe’s recent projects has been changing the face of Citi’s welcome experience for customers, delivering a seamless and simple on-boarding platform that is 100 per cent digital. For this, she’s reporting into the global CMO and streamlining the customer welcome across multiple products, markets and platforms.

    “It’s exciting that Australia is directing the design of this customer experience, which will then be rolled out globally. No matter where our customers are, they will receive the same Citi welcome, which is very important to us,” she said in her CMO50 submission.

    “We want to make sure customers have a remarkable experience and our research illustrates that this needs to be led by simplifying and digitising everything we do.”

    Key initiatives being rolled out include: Online applications with pre-populated information; the ability to save and retrieve applications; immediate issuance of an account number; the ability to track applications right down to card delivery status; SMS notifications; and fully-digitised welcome kits.

    The project is still in its early days but Citi has already achieved the highest number of online acquisitions to date, while its 90-day customer engagement has jumped 10 per cent, Duncombe said. Citi’s Net Promoter Score is also at its highest level ever, rising 7 per cent since the start of the project.

    “Our initiatives are driving a more efficient spend of our marketing dollars, which is improving our ROI. It’s a win for us and our customers,” Duncombe said.

    Modern marketing and customer engagement thinking and effectiveness

    Citi’s flagship customer engagement and marketing program is its dining platform. Over recent months, Duncombe has worked to build a digital dining platform to enhance the customer journey. The build was completed in 90 days from ask to implementation and went live in July.

    The new website has shifted from information-based navigation to customer-centric, action orientated interactions, Duncombe said in her submission. Recognising customers prefer to engage on their mobile devices, the new site is mobile first and optimised for desktop and tablet. It also incorporates location services to give customers a dynamic, relevant experience.

    “It’s designed to meet our customers’ needs as the way they conduct their lives changes. Through the digital dining platform, customers can not only find restaurants by name, location or cuisine, they can even choose a restaurant based on who’s serving their favourite wine,” Duncombe said.

    “We’ve also partnered with booking service, Dimmi, so customers can book restaurants online, and we are working with our partner restaurants so when those customers arrive for their booking they are given the Citi VIP treatment.”

    A standalone dining app was due to go live shortly after the CMO50 judging, which Duncombe said supported more interaction and used geo-fencing to deliver timely and relevant alerts to customers.

    “Our continued work in the digital dining space is having a great effect on customer engagement. Our customer spend on dining is 2.5 x higher than the industry average,” she said.

    Data and/or technology driven approach

    As CMO, Duncombe has been leading a data infrastructure project this year to update Citi’s data capture, analytics and reporting capabilities. This is aimed at further enabling Citi to use data to better understand customers and tailor services to their needs.

    By changing the underlying infrastructure, Citi has already done away with generic eDMs.

    “Our eDMs are now responsive, delivering tailored messages to customers who opt in, based on what they want to see,” Duncombe explained in her submission. “We’re able to do this by using location and behaviour-based information. For example, if we can see from our spending data that a customer likes to travel, we will show them travel offers and rewards for their city.

    “Our data isn’t just being used to keep customers engaged either – we’re using it to continue to engage existing customers too. Our system is set up so any changes in customer behaviour create a trigger, which automates customised messaging to our customers. Often, by the time a customer stops communicating with us it’s too late to re-engage so we’ve made sure our system is sophisticated enough to trigger an alert before we reach that point.”

    Since customising its email marketing, average open rates for eDMs has increased by 20 per cent, Duncombe said.


    Thinking outside the square when it comes to engaging customers lies at the heart of creativity for Duncombe. Research into Citi customers turned up the insight that one of their key interests is food and dining, which is why Citi launched its dining rewards program.

    “We’re giving customers tangible benefits in that space – benefits that they would not normally expect to see from their bank,” Duncombe said. “We call this ‘Rethink banking’.”

    An example is Citi’s partnership with McWilliams Wines and more than 300 restaurants across Australia to provide customers with a free bottle of wine when they dine with the Citibank Dining Program. The group has also partnered with the Good Food & Wine Show and Fairfax to deliver Good Food Month across multiple states, with customers receiving special benefits including two-for-one tickets and VIP seating.

    Duncombe said open rates on dining eDMs are over 50 per cent against the financial services industry average of 26 per cent, and customers are posting positive feedback on social media.

    “We’re also doing so well in the food and dining space that our initiatives are being leveraged by Citi globally,” she said.

    Share this article