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Citibank commits to beacons after merchants give the technology a thumbs-up

Citibank continues to pave the way for mobile banking by deploying beacons at select Manhattan branches, enabling customers to enter ATM lobbies during off-hours without a card and to receive personalized, location-based messages.

Citibank has teamed up with beacon provider Gimbal to roll out the technology to several of its Smart Banking branches in Manhattan as part of a pilot program devoted to customized banking options. The company is one of the first banks to integrate beacons into its infrastructure, suggesting that other major players in the financial industry are set to follow suit in the near future.

“Beacon technology is enabling a more convenient and welcoming banking experience for Citibank customers,” said Will Howle, president of U.S. retail banking at Citi. “The seamless experience of allowing cardless entry into ATM lobbies after hours is a natural extension of the smart banking features in our branches and mobile app.

“This is the latest in a long line of customer-centric Citibank innovations. As mobile becomes a primary banking channel for more customers, we are exploring ways meet the changing needs and expectations of our clients.”

Banking on beacons
Citibank has installed Gimbal’s beacons at several of its Manhattan bank branches as part of the initial test. The financial institution’s customers can enable Bluetooth technology on their personal devices to receive cardless entry into ATM lobbies after operating hours.

The beacons will transform individuals’ Apple Watches or iPhones into virtual keys with which they may unlock the lobby’s door. For example, if a Citi customer approaches a Smart Banking branch, the beacons will send a push notification to his or her device asking “Want to unlock the ATM lobby door?”

Users can then tap their device to unlock the door and receive 24-hour ATM access.

This enables consumers to enjoy a highly convenient experience and dismiss any time constraints that visiting an ATM during working hours may present.

“Beacons can provide bank branches with a number of benefits for better engaging and personalizing the experience for their customers,” said Brian Dunphy, senior vice president of business development and strategic partnerships at Gimbal. “Citi is using Gimbal beacons to help customers open up ATM branch doors without them having to use their ATM card, which gives consumers peace of mind in not having to pull out their wallet in a non-secure environment or have to do so in the frigid cold.”

Citibank’s customers may also opt in for location-based personalized messaging, which includes notifications about events and special offers as well as greetings.

Citi’s New York customers were given the option to test out the new beacons by opting in via the bank’s mobile application.

Smart-focused technologies
The Gimbal beacon rollout is one of the latest mobile-heavy customer experience strategies from Citibank. Visitors at its Smart Banking branches can also leverage enhanced ATMs and iPads to conduct tasks previously reserved for tellers.

Additionally, Citibank recently introduced a voice-enabled biometrics solution that automatically verifies a user’s identity within several seconds of a phone call.

Other initiatives include piloting cardless ATMs, a tactic also tapped by one of Citibank’s competitors.

Chase plans to install new card-free ATM machines this year, allowing customers to withdraw funds and complete other financial transactions using their smartphones (see story).

Citibank also maintains a strong focus on wearables, as evidenced by its move to include Apple Watches in the list of devices able to unlock ATM lobbies.

A Citi executive at the Global Mobile Internet Conference New York 2015 revealed the best practices retailers should follow when entering the wearable space, including the importance of quick and painless features (see story).

Ultimately, consumers can expect to see a plethora of other financial marketers follow in Citibank’s footsteps and employ beacon technology in a bid to streamline experiences for existing customers and offer incentives for new ones, such as real-time rewards sent to those in the vicinity of a bank branch.

“Other use cases include the ability for branch personnel to know which customers have entered the branch and may need more personal attention,” Gimbal’s Mr. Dunphy said. “Whether it’s providing white glove service to high-net-worth individuals or helping personnel provide relevant offers to customers for services they may need, such as mortgage or student loan refinancing or new investment vehicles, customers can also be alerted to these types of services on the mobile devices as they enter a branch and wait on line.

“Beacons can help branch managers understand customer traffic patterns and help plan for adding more tellers based on number of customers entering a branch, but leaving due to long lines. They can also be used to trigger surveys and get real-time feedback from customers visiting a branch.”