CITIBANK Global Consumer's Position within Europe, with specific emphasis on Germany
Downs, Laura Gage
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During the winter quarter of 19931 traveled to Bonn, Germany to do an internship for my Senior Individualized Project (SIP). My internship was at the American-owned bank Citibank. I did not know much about Citibank's presence within Germany, and I had not yet chosen a topic for my SIP paper. I was, however, excited at the chance to forge out on my own in Germany. I had arranged my .own housing and was going to work at a day-to-day job within in a foreign country; I was thrilled. The Citibank branch I worked at was small. The 15-employee branch was located downtown in the pedestrian section of Bonn. My internship involved more observation and secretarial tasks than analytical work. In the beginning I was frustrated at the lack of true work I was given. I felt that with my level of education I should have been undertaking more difficult tasks. The language was definitely an obstacle in doing advanced work, but I came to realize that the main obstacle was the different training process, in comparison to America, of bank employees within Germany. The German educational system is different from the American system. Only a small portion of the society attends university; a much larger percentage attends a trade school. The offered areas of study are more diverse than is common at an American trade (or as more commonly know-vocational) school, in the US. In fact, Germany's trade school program is one of the most extensive in the world, ·guaranteeing virtually everyone the opportunity of a high wage skill* (26). Future electricians, gardeners, salesmen and woman, chefs, bankers, etc., choose their career direction much earlier, and study much more specific skills, than is true of their American contemporaries. In order to obtain a job in a bank, one must first complete a trainee program, which involves: study at a trade school; specific training within the bank; and at least two years of full-time work at the bank. The first step in the process is to apply at a bank. Once accepted, the bank enrolls the student in a nationally regulated banking school. The trainee must both satisfy the bank's trainee requirements and pass the banking school's exam before being eligible to become a qualified bank employee(lO). Once I understood the long period required before a trainee was allowed to deal with a customer independently, I understood why I was not being expected to undertake projects individually. While it is common within America for a student to do a three or six month internship, this is not common within Germany. It was difficult for many Germans to understand exactly what I was doing and how the experience fitted into my course of study in America. This cultural difference was interesting, and an understanding of it helped relieve my frustration on the job. There were days when I wished the actual work was more demanding; however, I received a chance to observe was going on around me in the bank. It was fascinating to watch the interactions between customers and employees, and among the employees themselves. The SIP topic that evolved from my internship is Citibank's presence and growing market position specifically within German, but also within Europe as a whole. It was not a simple topic to research. The Bonn branch was very busy and, because employees were constantly involved in daily tasks, there was not often time to ask questions. However from my experience at the Bonn branch I developed a framework on which my whole SIP paper is built. My daily experience provided me insight into the business and management practices of Citibonk within Germany. Although I had no first-hand experience at other branches, I was able to research Citibonk structures within other countries. To orient the reader to certain specifics of the bank, my introduction covers Citibonk's world wide presence. The first section of the paper then proceeds to Citibank within Germany. I describe the services offered by Citibank, and the high level of growth that the bank is experiencing. In addition I present reasons for the growth. The second section of the paper outlines changes resulting from the emerging European Community, and Citibonk's strategies to benefit from these changes. I ended my internship with a clear idea of Citibonk's current structure within Europe, and of the direction the bank is headed. What 1 conclude is that: ( 1) Citibank is the most innovative growth bank within Germany and, (2) by developing advanced banking technology, emphasizing service, and already having a strong presence within many European countries, the bank is in an excellent position to benefit from the , emerging European Community.