Dena Brumpton is a woman who, in her own words, ‘has it all’. Citi Private Bank’s chief operating officer has just returned from a work trip to Asia and is about to embark on a sailing holiday, but first she wants to talk about Citi’s New Century Private Bank.

It is a small piece of the large jigsaw that is Citigroup, the US’ third largest bank by assets and one of the few truly global banks. The private bank made $2.49 billion in revenues last year, and pulled in $1.32bn for the first half of 2014, up from $1.27bn a year earlier.

Despite its modest size in comparison to wealth management providers like UBS, Citi Private Bank is determined to haul itself into the 21st century under ‘Project Sheen’, with Brumpton firmly at the helm of the digitalization revamp.

Project Sheen

Project Sheen was initiated to improve aspects of the client experience at Citi, from technology to processes to data.

"Digitalization is incredibly important – we are seeing a behavioural shift across all aspects of people’s lives and I don’t see why banking relationships will be any different," says Brumpton.

Clients want information now, wherever they are and whether a banker is available or not, says Brumpton.

"They don’t want to use a website that is not bespoke, they want to go into a space and just see the information that is relevant to them."

To that end, Citi redesigned its private banking mobile app and launched In View earlier this year. Brumpton describes it as an engagement tool for its clients and bankers to interact with one another, allowing them to have a dialogue around a client’s portfolio, transactions, research and to see the same thing on screen.

"Whatever the client sees, the banker sees," she says.

Clients can access In View through their desktop or on their mobile device and see their portfolio, investments, executed transactions, asset allocation and the performance of their portfolio. They can drill down into individual equity positions, view research on their positions, find the biggest stock movers, and check for buy or sell recommendations.

Brumpton is particularly proud of the digital vault, where clients can save important documents such as bank statements, relationship reports and a digital copy of their passport.

"The digital vault is a really neat concept, as is the portfolio place which has the ability to drill down into a portfolio and see the asset allocation and view the individual performance of a holding," she says.

She fervently believes that clients want to see their private banker as frequently as in the past, but want to access information inbetween visits – instead of carrying around 15 research reports they want to go into a mobile app and find that information in their digital vault.

FaceTime your banker

Later this year, the mobile app will include a new ‘try before you buy’ feature, whereby clients can drop an investment into their portfolio and see how it would affect their portfolio. Brumpton is also keen to introduce an integrated video function that has been in beta testing and is expected to be live before the end of this year.

"Our clients are mobile – they travel a lot and are not always in the same country," says Brumpton.

"They use video in their personal life, such as Skype or FaceTime, and we use video in a professional way with our institutional clients so it made sense to extend that to our private banking clients."

She admits that not all the bank’s clients are up and running on In View yet, and they still have to add a number of functionalities. Approximately 40% of the private bank’s client base are enabled to use the app but some clients will never feel comfortable in the digital space, says Brumpton.

"But we expect to see 100% of our next generation clients using the app," she says confidently.

To appeal to the next generation and revamp in a ‘big way’, Brumpton and her team moved from their previous office in Berkeley Square, an area that was synonymous with Citi’s private bank, to a ‘fresh, vibrant space’ in Stirling Square near Pall Mall.

Brumpton has focused on reducing the lengthy onboarding process for its most complex clients, which used to take a lot of time and effort.

"We realised that with digitalisation and mobile banking we can save a significant amount of time. With Project Sheen we have cut the time to onboard our complex clients in half," she says.

Citi’s private banking offering is largely targeted at more complex clients, those with an ultra high net worth of over $25 million. The bank sold its retail and mass-affluent brokerage and advisory business, Smith Barney, to Morgan Stanley in 2009 and dramatically shrank its customer base and fleet of private bankers to focus instead on its richest clients.

The bank is now eyeing up acquisitions, in the form of new ultra high net worth clients and potentially other wealth management businesses, says Brumpton.

"We see others in the industry selling their private banking portfolios as the industry consolidates, and we will obviously look at those opportunities."

Brumpton believes the private banking industry will consolidate even further given the vast pressures and regulatory environment, presenting opportunities to the likes of Citi.

"For anyone that has a small, non-core operation, now is the time to divest," says Brumpton.

Brumpton identifies the economic growth in Asia and of the entrepreneur in China as important to attracting new clients, but also has her eye on the West Coast and Silicon Valley as a hotspot for innovation and wealth creation.

Big fish in a small pond

Brumpton has worked at Citi her entire career but has only been in the private bank for a few years, where her responsibilities include developing strategies and initiatives to cater to the ultra high net worth market, onboarding more clients and being in charge of marketing, operational risk and the bank’s next generation programme.

Her background lies in investment banking – she joined the trading and capital markets business in 1997 and worked on taking the markets business global, following Citicorp’s merger with Travelers

In 2003, Brumpton was appointed chief administrative officer of Global Corporate and Investment Banking, and in 2008 was asked to champion Citigroup’s cross marketing strategies before moving across to the private bank.

"The private bank is a fairly small part of Citigroup, we are a small part of a big pond which means we can take decisions and see the impact immediately," she says.

A champion of women in finance, Brumpton says the issue is not attracting women to the private banking industry but rather getting them into more senior roles that they can retain for the long term. The private bank is less ‘supercharged’ than investment banking, but women still find it tough to juggle a career and family, she says.

Earlier this year, PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi controversially said that working women cannot have it all, but Brumpton takes a different point of view. She says that she has managed to ‘have it all’, but it is about pacing and accepting that it’s not possible to have it all every single day.

"I balance my work and family life with difficulty, but it is critical because otherwise you can’t do this job long term. I have two young children, an 11-year old daughter and a 9-year old son, as well as horses, dogs, chickens and other interests!"

She is currently reading children’s novel Tulip Touch with her daughter Imogen – rather than immerse herself in business tomes Brumpton prefers to switch off by reading with her kids.

The key to having it all is flexibility, according to Brumpton. She has a full office from home, complete with video facilities, and works flexibly whenever she can in order to fit work around her life and be a role model for other women.

She sits on the board of Cancer Research UK Women of Influence, which mentors female scientists working on ground-breaking research to beat cancer.

"If they drop out mid-career that costs lives because there is only a finite number of people qualified to find the cure for cancer. If they need to drop out for childcare reasons, that shows there are more significant issues," says Brumpton.

The advice she gives to other women is, in addition to building out their technical skills, also be confident enough to take bold decisions, be prepared to make mistakes and not be an apologist for those mistakes.

"I think you can overthink your career. When working for a company like Citi there are so many opportunities, you just have to stay flexible and be confident to stick your hand up and take any challenge that comes your way. That’s what I’ve built my career on," she says.

Farah Khalique