What is it like working in the ever-changing fintech landscape?
Citi’s Arlene Ennis talks about her work leading the technology build that supports the company’s digital consumer payments initiative.
Arlene Ennis works at Citi as the global technology leader of “Spring by Citi,” the company’s digital consumer payments initiative within the Treasury Technology and Commerce Solutions division.
She has nearly 20 years of experience in financial services, a bachelor’s degree in software engineering and an MBA from Dublin City University.
Ennis joined Citi in 2002 and has held positions in operations, customer delivery and technology. It also supports multiple initiatives aimed at young people and women in tech.
“I find myself constantly evaluating the e-commerce experiences I personally have”
– ARLENE ENNIS
If so, can you describe a typical day at work?
I would like there to be a typical day in my role, because it varies from day to day. But generally, I’m in the office three days a week, remotely two. I have a lot of meetings during the day as I have teams in India, EMEA and North America, so depending on the time of day I will be interacting with different colleagues.
Zoom, Teams chat and email are the tools I use all day. I manage my workload by prioritizing what really needs to be done and what is achievable in a given day or week. I tend to have a Monday list of four or five key things to do during the week and it helps me focus on what’s important.
What types of projects do you work on?
I have been working on major technology projects for several years, currently leading the technology build supporting Citi’s digital consumer payments initiative.
I really enjoy leading this project because e-commerce was a new area for me and I learned a lot over the past three years.
As a new technical implementation it has been really energizing for me and the team to build an e-commerce solution from scratch, the freedom to build a modern tech stack with no legacy to contend with has been an amazing experience.
I feel great personal satisfaction as more and more customers are using this solution and are proud of everything the Spring by Citi team has accomplished to date.
What skills do you use on a daily basis?
Day to day, it’s about people, people, people – building and managing positive relationships, open communication, negotiation and project execution.
When I started working on the digital consumer payment project, it was a small core team. However, over the past two years we have had to evolve significantly and the team has grown exponentially.
I really had to focus on my delegation skills, building the confidence and competence of my team members to take on additional responsibilities and grow in their own careers. I spend a lot of my time focusing on building my team’s core competencies through delegation, so my team has a voice and I don’t become a bottleneck to progress!
What are the hardest parts of your workday?
The hardest part of my day is saying goodbye to my kids in the morning, they would much rather I stayed home and played with them all day. As my children are young, there have been several teary mornings which can take their toll and this is not a good way to start anyone’s day.
When I’m at work, back-to-back meetings can have bad consequences, and as an introverted person, I need to schedule time during the day to have time without meetings. It allows me to recharge my energy and focus during the day.
As I spend most of my working day communicating with other people, I always try to maintain a positive attitude and a sense of humor with my colleagues, I find this can make the days more difficult a little better for everyone.
Do you have any productivity tips that help you throughout the day?
If you’re leading a team, I really believe in investing in your people. It is therefore important to support them in their career development by delegating to them effectively. This allows them to grow and frees up your time as you build your team’s confidence and abilities.
I get a lot of email and meeting traffic and tend to delegate that and “get out” of things that can and should be handled by someone on my team.
I also believe in the power of a list and use pencil and paper every day to keep track of important things that need to be done.
What skills and tools do you use to communicate with your colleagues on a daily basis?
During the pandemic, everything was Zoom and I think everyone had to adapt to building relationships remotely. This year, as the travels began, I traveled to meet people in person, strengthen relationships, and improve communication.
It has also been great to be back in the office and talking to people in person, as you can connect with a wider network of co-workers and have “water cooler” chats.
How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?
My current role is constantly evolving, supporting new payment concepts and technology supporting digital consumer payments.
It’s exciting to see how people pay for things globally. This varies from market to market considering cards, digital wallets, alternative payment methods, bank transfers, instant payments etc. and even looking to the future of biometric payments, will people pay with their fingerprint or their palm?
It’s an ever-changing landscape and my role is changing with it as we develop digital payment solutions for Citi customers.
What do you enjoy most about the job?
People and possibilities. I really enjoy working with my team, my colleagues and my partners. I have the chance to work with various people from all over the world and it is great to work with them.
I love e-commerce and the evolving possibilities of payments and the technology behind it. It’s so exciting and I find myself constantly evaluating the e-commerce experiences I personally have and thinking about how it could be better for me and for a merchant.
What better way to make me spend more? Did I abandon my purchases because the checkout experience was painful? I really love online shopping!
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