After 22 years at Citi in India, Debopama Sen decided it was time to go for an innovative new job which would give her fresh challenges. She applied for her current Singapore-based role as ASEAN head of the bank’s Treasury & Trade Solutions (TTS) business. “I was already looking after TTS for the Indian subcontinent, and I was keen to work with teams across multiple countries and contribute to Citi on a broader scale,” says Debopama.
The most important initial task of Debopama’s ASEAN job, which she started in 2018, was winning the trust of her new team. “In India, I had the benefit of a solid internal network over several years, so when I arrived in Singapore I focused my efforts on successfully building relationships from scratch in a business that’s more geographically complex,” explains Debopama.
TTS, a division of Citi’s Institutional Clients Group, offers integrated cash management and trade services and finance to multinational corporations, financial institutions and public sector organisations around the world. In ASEAN, TTS employs people in Singapore, as well as in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. The unit includes a variety of functions, such as sales, product, business development, project management and governance.
Debopama describes jobs in her team as exciting and challenging because of the huge opportunities for Citi and its TTS clients in fast-growing ASEAN markets. Manufacturing companies, for example, are looking to tap into the region’s supply chains, while the growth of ASEAN’s young and digitally savvy population is helping to fuel the rise of e-commerce firms and consumer-facing businesses.
“New technology – from blockchain to AI and IoT – is transforming the way our clients in all sectors operate. They need their banking partner to be on top of these emerging developments. Citi has the local knowledge and the global tools to help some of the world’s most dynamic companies as they digitalise and scale up their businesses in ASEAN,” says Debopama. While the TTS team caters to large corporates that boast both online and offline assets, it’s also increasingly working with “nimble, digital-native companies with no physical infrastructure”, she adds.
If you want to join the TTS team in Singapore or another ASEAN country, Debopama says an understanding of evolving customer needs in banking and technology trends is more important than ever, no matter what position you’re applying for. “A background in technology isn’t a must, but you do need to be able to learn and understand what the technology stack can do and how to deliver it to help clients. You have to assimilate information and hone in on what’s relevant to clients and Citi’s business. I also like to hire people who are self-motivated and have empathy for clients and a desire to learn,” she adds.
Debopama says leadership skills are important in her team, even for people who aren’t in management positions. “You need the ability to help guide and advise clients operating in a complex and fast-growing region. It’s also critical to have great stakeholder management skills, both internally and externally. TTS is a large team, and you’ll be interacting with colleagues across job functions and with clients across different sectors,” she says,
In a region as diverse as ASEAN and in a bank as global as Citi, the ability to collaborate effectively with colleagues and clients from different cultures and backgrounds is also critical, says Debopama. “This applies to my own job too. I have a wonderfully diverse team. It’s very rewarding to take in different opinions and get people focused on a common strategy,” she adds.
Citi is making a conscious effort to help ensure that its new recruits reflect the diverse populations of the markets the bank operates in, says Debopama. For example, Citi holds hiring managers accountable for inclusive interview shortlists, supports mothers to return to work, and runs training programmes to reduce unconscious bias. Citi Singapore also has in place affinity networks for women,generations and pride to support diversity. . “Promoting diversity is always a work in progress, and we have additional initiatives targeted at certain jobs. There are still insufficient female applicants for some roles, for example, so we regularly hold campus events aimed at young women,” she adds.
As a senior leader who’s risen up the ranks at Citi, Debopama says it’s important that women at the bank have female role models, so they can “look at them and think, if they can do it, so can I”. Debopama joined Citi as a management trainee and went on to work in trade operations, where she learned about banking from the ground up. She then joined the TTS team and worked in various roles across project management, business management, and sales across both TTS and Securities Services.
“I’ve been privileged to work with managers who were seriously interested in my career development. I’ve always found Citi to be an employer that gives opportunities to people because they’re right for the job. My ambitions have never been discounted here,” says Debopama. “I’ve also had informal and formal mentors at Citi who’ve helped me deal with new challenges with the benefit of their wisdom. It’s helpful to speak with people who can act as sounding boards as they’re removed from your day-to-day work and bring a fresh perspective,” she adds.
Debopama says she has also benefited from Citi’s strong support of internal mobility, which enabled her to move job functions and shift from India to Singapore. “I’ve been able to do a number of roles, and now I’m encouraging my team to be mobile too. Citi operates in more than 160
countries and jurisdictions and in a deep and meaningful way, so even if geographic mobility isn’t on the cards for you, business mobility could be,” says Debopama. “Mobility puts people in new situations, and helps them look at things from different perspectives, as I’ve learned from moving to Singapore.”
From her “new” base in the city state, Debopama has recently been focused on how the pandemic is affecting the needs of TTS clients across ASEAN. “The trends of digitalisation and consumer-led innovation have accelerated this year. We’ve seen companies in ASEAN digitalise their operations in months instead of years, so my team has a laser focus on helping clients through a period of rapid transformation,” she explains. “I’m honored to lead such a talented, diverse group of people as we take on these new challenges.”