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Citi Expects 66 Percent Drop in BlackBerry Use After Implementing BYOD Strategy

Financial firms once supported only the BlackBerry, but now Apple's iOS and the iPhone and iPad are gaining momentum across the Street.

BlackBerry Usage Takes a Hit

To date, Citi has seen a 10-15 percent reduction in BlackBerry devices as a result of the policy shift. And D'Onofrio expects that decrease to continue over the next year. The expectation is that eventually the bank will support approximately one-third the number of BlackBerry devices it supports now as employees shift to BYOD. D'Onofrio says he expects most employees, but not all, will shift to iPhones or IPads.

And as for tapping into the Android operating system, Citi has not been as quick to adopt Android despite some demand. D'Onofrio says, "We have a strong desire to support Android, but we are not there yet." He explains that until Citi feels comfortable with the level of security and the underlying operating system, it will not support Android. However, he expects that these concerns will be addressed and Android will be supported in the future.

With any BYOD strategy, the main concern is that the information available on applications used by any of these devices could be hacked, lost or stolen, CTO Lavender explains. As a result, before allowing a variety of devices to be used in the workforce, firms must make sure they have created a fully secure environment.

While progress has been made toward allowing the broader adoption of Apple devices, security concerns still exist with Android. D'Onofrio notes that the company is working with several vendors on a solution for Android.

"The goal is to create a secure, managed sandbox on the personal devices for our applications," Lavender adds.

Employee Empowerment

The reception to the BYOD plan has been "tremendous," says Lavender, who describes himself as a multidevice user, carrying a personal iPhone next to his BlackBerry Torch; he also has an iPad in his office. He explains that he pays for these devices and mobile plans personally, but does get to take advantage of Citi's employee discount. And as with the policy for BlackBerry users, the firm pays for a plan if it's essential to that employee's role.

D'Onofrio explains that he can see these devices, particularly the iPad, removing the need for many desktops. When asked, he emphasizes that Citi's current has little to do with economics.

"This move is all about employee empowerment and making sure we are keeping up with expectations of a young global workforce," D'Onofrio says. By the same token, he adds, there are many cost "saves" since the firm is moving to its internal desktop cloud. "It's less about device, but how we are managing their systems images and security and how we are increasing security," D'Onofrio says.

Citi is working in partnership with Apple and RIM, as well as Google (for Google Wallet), to understand the security of the mobile device as well as security process and analytics, D'Onofrio adds. Ultimately, Citi will review potential vulnerabilities to make sure the firm is fully secure when it comes to allowing employees to use their own devices.

D'Onofrio notes that the move to open the doors to Apple devices is not a vote against RIM. "It had nothing to do with the utility or RIM," he says. "There are employees who prefer the RIM devices."

He explains, "This strategy is clearly driven by our employees personal choice and their applications that we are trying to accommodate. It's more convenient to have one device rather than two, and more personal home devices are now Apple products."

D'Onofrio says he assumes that many other firms are in a similar boat and are also working on similar BYOD strategies.

That said, many firms are sticking with RIM. Instinet, for example is still a 98 percent BlackBerry shop, notes a company spokesperson.

Northern Trust Securities' Terry Ransford, in an email, sums up the security firm's strategy this way: "We do not have a push to migrate to iPhone. The enterprise tool is BlackBerry but we support employees who choose to connect via their own iPhone/iPad."

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