Dark clouds may be looming again over the U.S. economy, but Jon Beyman, managing director of operations and technology for the global institutional client group at Citi, is a veteran at weathering storms. Fortunately, his experience should serve him well as he guides the bank's technology department through the troubling times ahead.
Beyman joined Citi in 2008, just three weeks before his former employer Lehman Brothers went belly-up, Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America and the Federal Reserve bailed out AIG. And during the course of his 35-year career, he has successfully navigated through other storms, too.
Prior to joining Citi, Beyman was the long-time CIO at Lehman Brothers, a position he held on Sept. 11, 2001, when the company's headquarters in lower Manhattan were destroyed. Beyman's office was located in the World Trade Center, but he happened to be in London on the day the terrorists attacked. He recalls the days following those terrible events as one of the most impactful experiences of his career, if not his life.
"I learned so many things about how organizations could pull together and overcome insurmountable odds and do incredible things," Beyman says. Despite losing its headquarters in the attack, Lehman "was there when the markets opened again," he adds.
And despite recent dire economic news and the gloomy prospect of more jobs being slashed across the financial industry, Beyman is confident that Citi can efficiently push ahead through another crisis. "The crisis that Citi faced in 2009 was hopefully the low moment" for the organization, he says, adding, "We're a stronger institution now -- we have much better liquidity, much better capital, we're much better able to weather a difficult economy." Citigroup, which needed $45 billion in government bailouts to survive the financial crisis, recently posted its sixth-consecutive quarterly profit.
Still, if the U.S.'s troubling economic data persists, Beyman admits that Citi, which has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions, will have to do another round of belt tightening and eliminate jobs. "That's never fun. There are difficult times. You do a lot of things you'd rather not do," he says. "But you try to stay focused and drive the agenda."
Beyond crisis management, Beyman says, his management style is to try to get the best people he can in the right jobs and to get his team members what they need (he quickly points out that "anyone who has kids knows the difference between 'need' and 'want'"). As part of that approach, Beyman continues, he tries to "take obstacles out of [his team's] way, and to set up transparency into what's going on."
"I try to hold people accountable for good performance," he adds. "I make sure we're rewarding people who have performed."
Beyman, who also is responsible for enterprise technology, leads a global team of more than 30,000 people. His organization also works with a number of third-party providers to meet Citi's operations and technology needs, a group that, according to Beyman, includes "the usual suspects -- IBM, Oracle, TCS, Wipro, SunGard, HP, Reuters and Bloomberg."
Beyman is not an engineer by training. He earned his B.S. in Accounting from the University of Connecticut and an M.B.A. from Cornell University, and in between retiring from Lehman Brothers in 2006 and taking up the CIO role at Citi in 2008, he returned to school to study history at Columbia University. As such, he says he is more focused on managing his team of technologists -- including more than 20,000 developers -- and on spearheading innovation rather than on specific technologies.
Still, Beyman proudly champions the organization's move toward internal clouds and virtual environments, a significant technology advantage for Citi. Mordechai Finkelstein, an architecture and engineering executive with Citi, recently told an audience of financial executives at the WS&T Cloud Symposium that the firm's private cloud, which it implemented a little more than a year ago, enabled the organization to gain agility by reducing time to market from 45 days to less than an hour, while also meeting Citi's goals of automatically scaling to meet demand and reclaiming unused resources.
Meanwhile, like his counterparts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and other Wall Street banks, another of Beyman's priorities has been building out the organization's OTC clearing platform. But while many firms are developing their platforms in response to the Dodd-Frank Act, Beyman says, Citi has been investing in infrastructure for its multi-asset clearing business since it was established in 2008. According to the bank, it recently cleared its first credit default swap trades on ICE Clear Credit and, since 2009, has cleared more than $6 billion in notional CDSs for its clients across the legacy ICE platform, ICE Trust and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).
Beyman acknowledges, however, that while Citi has a wealth of other big IT projects that it currently is working on, it has a "fairly large regulatory agenda." He explains that this spans Dodd-Frank compliance to Basel III.
And if that weren't enough, yet another top priority, Beyman relates, is improving the operating leverage of the business, to help the business grow. "When we achieve a certain scale, we can do an almost limitless amount of transactions at a marginal cost," he explains. "There is a whole class of projects aimed at that."
According to Beyman, Citi measures the success of its IT projects through careful post-mortems. "We look at why we did a project, what we expected to get and ask ourselves, 'Did we get it?' We look at on-time delivery, and if it's a productivity project, we look at whether we got the savings we thought we'd get," he reports. "These days we spend a lot of time driving down unit costs."
Beyman says he "endlessly preaches" the better, faster, cheaper agenda. "We have lots of things to improve," he says, "including our service levels to customers, offerings to eliminate latency from trading systems, and upgrading payment and custody systems."
As for the next big thing, Beyman says it's already here: "consumerization," which he defines as the notion that a mobile device and social media are driving an individual to have an intimate relationship with a technology device. "Your relationship with a smartphone is much different from a cell phone," he asserts. "There will be profound differences for the banking industry. We will see much higher transaction rates, and control from a risk and control standpoint around entry points. That has massively profound implications on how the banking industry is going to evolve."