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While Citibank may be committed to such a rollout, it needs to consider staggering the rollout over the course of years. This will help regional management become more involved in the rollout in each country, which will reduce the risk of each individual rollout. In addition, lessons learned from the initial rollouts can be applied to the subsequent ones, increasing the odds of success with the later rollouts. The rollouts can also be undertaken on the basis of back office concerns (rolling out Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia as one group given linguistic similarity; Taiwan as another for example). This can only be accomplished by understanding the differences between the markets and how best each market may be served.
It is also recommended that Citibank consider the spinoff marketing impacts of credit cards in its calculations. Credit cards can serve two important functions for Citibank in Asia. The first is that they build the customer based, something that is not possible given the constraints on branch banking growth that exist in most countries in the region. The second is that Citibank needs to consider the value-added that this larger client base will bring. For example, with increased wealth comes increased education access, so Citibank can provide student loans to its new clients; it can increase mortgages and other lending products as well. The spinoff effects of a larger client base need to be considered, especially when that new client base is subject to rapidly increasing wealth.
4. There are several implementation recommendations that will ensure this project succeeds. The first is to achieve consensus and the support of the country managers. There are a number of tools at Talwar's disposal. He has formal authority over these managers. In addition, he can attempt to convince the resisting managers by showing them that Citibank is committed to giving them the resources that they need to ensure the launch. In addition, communicating an effective vision for the company's Asia operations may come in handy. The different managers can also be brought together for a meeting -- the ones in favor may have convincing arguments to sway the ones opposed.
While such a meeting is likely to have some positive benefits, a combination of formal authority and organizational restructuring is recommended. Talwar can impose his will on these managers. While many Asian cultures emphasize consensus, they also emphasize formal authority. Thus, these managers are resisting because they think that as manager of 2-3 branches they have significant formal authority in a company that has $221 billion in assets. That is not the case. The CEO or other high level executive should be brought in from the U.S. To establish the credit card launch and overall strategic objectives of the company. The managers will then be compelled to work together to implement the strategy, rather than working together to formulate the strategy. Organizational restructuring can orient formal authority over Asia to Talwar, such that the functional managers are relegated to operational manager roles rather than strategic ones. Any that refuse to support the credit card initiative do not share the corporate mission and should be removed.
The rollout should be by country groups in order to build out economies of scale in support functions. This will allow Citibank to leverage linguistic similarities in many countries to save on infrastructure costs. In addition, lessons learned in the early countries can be applied to later countries. The countries that have the most managerial support can be used to launch the credit card campaign, since strong managerial support will be needed to roll out the cards. In addition, it is recommended that U.S. dollars are used for the cards to decrease foreign exchange rate risk. U.S. dollar cards will also focus initial growth on the more upscale end of the market. Once the initial lessons have been learned and the USD cards have reached economies of scale, subsequent layers of rollout can fill out the product line across different target markets and countries.
Market penetration and profitability will be the key measures for the credit card rollout. Penetration is more important because the credit cards serve the purpose of building the client base. Penetration pricing should be used, taking the Citibank cards to the mass market (such as USD cards allow). The spinoff revenues from the new customers will help to make the total program profitable, but that will be difficult to measure in the short-term. The credit card program should be profitable, but because there is an element of loss leadership in the cards initial rollout phase, profitability will not be the most important measure during the early phases. There will be profitability targets, however, based on assessments of rollout programs in the West at first. The later country rollouts (Philippines, for example) will use early rollouts (such as Malaysia) as benchmarks for both market penetration and profitability.
5. Talwar is the main decision maker. Talwar needs to spearhead this program, as most of the other business initiatives in the region are self-sustaining at lower levels of the organization. Also, by acting as the principal decision maker Talwar reinforces his formal authority. He will direct the process of rollout out the credit cards, including making the final decisions with regards to pricing strategy (perhaps in the range of $10 joining fee and $20 annual membership fee) and the order in which the cards will be rolled out to the different countries.
The individual country managers will need to provide support for this initiative. They will need to come up with a marketing strategy that is appropriate for their country (de-emphasizing direct mailing in regions with poor mail systems, for example). They will also need to provide plans for dealing with the servicing of the cards, including budgets. Groups of country-level managers will work together where needed to coordinate marketing strategy (such as the Singapore/Malaysia/Indonesia group). This group has a potential of around 53,000 credit card customers for example, based on figures from the Hong Kong market. Customer service will be coordinated at the group level and profitability will be measured on the group level as well, but each country manager will have his or her own measures for market penetration. This will encourage each manager to perform well in attracting new customers but will orient them towards working together on cost-saving initiatives. For the S/M/I group, 53,000 customers would provide annual income of $1.59 million excluding interest so costs would…[continue]
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