What compels someone to leave Amazon, one of the titans of this new-age industry, for a financial institution. Ask Brad Miller, Head of Global Digital and Cloud Technology at Citi, who spent 5 years at “The Everything Store” as General Manager for the e-commerce platform, and he’ll tell you about the “very rare” opportunity to influence the culture of a bank that’s over two hundred years old. Miller took the position at Citi in 2015 because he was inspired by the prospect of transforming how Citi builds software and thinks about banking.
With financial startups cropping up in every corner of the world, no big bank can afford to sit back and relax. As Miller puts it: “I really believe whoever has the best offering, and who is iterating the fastest, will win the hearts of the customers.”
In order for a company the size of Citi to change the way it operates from a technical perspective, the company must take into account years of legacy applications. In order to keep legacy applications running and still be able to create new applications that need to get built, Citi has to have a platform that can support all of its goals. Miller says that “Pivotal Cloud Foundry allows us to have that venue to be able to build into, and we didn't have to build that venue,” which lets Citi focus on building value for their customers.
Honorary Pivots and Counting
At SpringOne Platform, Pivotal’s annual conference, Miller covered a lot of ground in his keynote presentation. He pointed out that you can’t move fast at a company with a big, interdependent platform; business agility is achieved by teams that are empowered to plan, build, ship, and run their applications or services all by themselves. But you don’t get there overnight. As Miller put it, “[Pivotal helped] develop the skills that we needed to start building microservices and thinking about transitioning our existing architecture.”
To truly scale the new skills, tools, and mindsets, Citi needed a radical new team, Citi FinTech, to lead the way and mold Citi into the bank of the future; making Citi a forward-compatible competitor. One of Citi FinTech’s purposes, according to Miller, is “advancing [Citi’s] culture to a model in-line with building a modern distributed systems today.” This led to restructuring teams in a forward-compatible way, with embedded legal and compliance members, and all of them were writing user stories that would then be prioritized on a backlog.
Putting engineers in close proximity to other members of the organization emboldened Miller and his team, which he describes as “super excited to be able to unleash their own potential on building software the way in which they've dreamed.” Miller goes on to say that “our charter isn't just to make ourselves successful but to build the templates that enable other teams inside Citi, to be able to pick up the learnings and accelerate their growth so that we can help everybody be successful and provide our customers the best experiences, as fast as possible.”
Engineers in my organization are super excited to unleash their own potential of building software the way in which they've always dreamed."Brad Miller, Head of Global Digital and Cloud Technology, Citi
A big part of beginning to innovate requires trust and cooperation, which Miller says Citi is achieving by merging the planning and development processes: “The development team is working with the business, as one cohesive unit that is incented on a week-by-week, sprint-by-sprint, release-by-release cadence to own everything end-to-end internally and drive that autonomy to that team.”
According to Miller, their plan is to “build our own Pivotal Labs inside of Citi.” This is a place where any new Citi developer will be on-boarded, where they will learn their model of development. The lab will lead to exponential growth for Citi’s team of developers, where they solve financial issues millions of people face all over the world. If you’re interested in joining Citi, check out their careers page and reach out to Christina Neudeck.
At the Citi lab, a new developer will “learn about the tools like Pivotal Cloud Foundry, and then they’ll come home, and train others how to do the same thing.” While the skillset gained is important, what’s even more important is gaining the ability to show others how to reuse a piece of code and this method of collaboration that provides customers with great experiences in a thoughtful, fast, and secure manner. It’s a style of working that you’ll use throughout your career and always appreciate, because it gets value to the people who need it most.