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Citigroup has poached eBay’s chief data officer to head up data and analytics for its retail operations in Asia, a sign that banks are pushing back against a trend that is sapping their talent to feed a boom in financial services at competing tech companies.
In recent years, technology groups in the US and Asia have expanded into financial services, and have looked to executives at global banks to help make investments and drive new lines of business.
The flow of talent from banks to tech groups has been viewed as a coup for financial services outside of the banking industry, and a sign that traditional financial institutions are losing their edge.
Google, for example, hired Morgan Stanley chief financial officer Ruth Porat in 2015 to take a similar role at the US internet group. The same year, Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba poached Michael Evans, formerly vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs, to lead its overseas expansion.
While most of the movement top talent has been away from financial institutions, global banks are starting to poach from large internet companies.
“I think where you are seeing this is in the highly technical roles, where banks have traditionally lacked talent,” said John Mallally, a director for financial services at recruitment consultancy Robert Walters Hong Kong. “If you look at absolute numbers, banks are probably hiring more from tech companies, but at a lower level of talent. But we are still seeing the prime talent go in the other direction.”
Citi said on Monday that it has hired Zoher Karu, who led eBay’s data operations since 2013. Before that he was head of marketing analytics at Sears, the US department store.
Along with peers HSBC and Standard Chartered, Citi is competing for a share of Asia’s valuable retail banking market. The bank has sought to appeal to a generation of young, wealthy clients that prefer to bank on their mobile phones as opposed to visiting physical branches.
But it also faces competition from local companies, such as Ant Financial in China and Kakao Bank in Korea, which already operate strong digital banking and electronic payments franchises.
Kakao Bank opened 300,000 new accounts within its first 24 hours of business when it launched in June this year, demonstrating pent up demand for fully digital banking services in the country.
By tapping into client data, Citi says it can tailor more suitable product offerings to clients.
Mr Karu will oversee data and analytics at the US bank’s expanding digital retail franchise in Asia, covering 17 markets.
Over the past year, Citi has made several technology hires to its bank. In June, it appointed Shinjini Kumar to head retail operations in India. She was previously the chief executive at Paytm, an Indian payments and ecommerce company. It has also hired executives from PayPal and Amazon to its financial technology operations Citi FinTech.
In November, HSBC said it had hired the former Europe chairman of Google payments, Mike Warriner, as chief information officer for its retail bank. Tesco’s chief digital officer Thomas Nielsen moved to Deutsche Bank in September to take a similar job for the bank’s global transactions business.