Citi Innovation Lab Spotlight: Tel Aviv, Israel
By Lyron Wahrmann, Israel Lab Head November 12, 2015 01:00 PM
Note: Citi has a global network of labs that drives innovation throughout our businesses. Located across the U.S., Ireland, Israel and Singapore, Citi Innovation Labs are pioneering and testing disruptive new solutions for our customers. The labs are managed by the businesses, and Citi Ventures, led by CEO Debby Hopkins, coordinates the global network that connects them together. Citi Ventures’ Innovation Network also manages an internal Acceleration Fund to promote rapid experimentation and discovery, particularly around the most disruptive business models and emerging technologies. This blog series will highlight the important innovative work of the labs worldwide.
As the leading international financial institution in Israel (“the startup nation”), it was something of a no-brainer for us to open an Innovation Lab in Tel Aviv. As a company always on the lookout for new robust technologies to help us stay ahead of the curve, The Lab -- which I have lead since its establishment four years ago -- focuses its efforts on making Citi what we like to think of as a “technology company with a banking license”.
Shortly after the Israel Innovation Lab was established, our stakeholders paid us a visit. Their message was clear, we should be disruptive! Our mandate is to find and develop new technologies to help our customers with their banking and financial needs.
With the support from other areas of Citi, our team established Citi's first accelerator program and one of the first Citi FinTech acceleration programs globally. Back then, corporate accelerator programs were still rare. Since our launch in 2013, we’ve been exposed to numerous startups and have had the chance to collaborate with four classes - totaling 43 startups – of graduates from our four-month accelerator program.
One of the most visible and successful projects we’ve developed at the Lab is a mobile version of Citi Velocity -- our trading platform for institutional clients. Citi Velocity’s average volume is $3billion a day, one of the highest trade flows in the world for a platform of this kind. Citi Velocity allows hedge funds, institutional investors and professional traders to trade easily, providing them with relevant local, regional and global news and events, up-to-the-minute research, online prices and maximum securitized trading activity. Since our traders typically work on six big screens that include all the relevant information needed to make a good decision in practically no time, you can only imagine how challenging it was to take all the information usually shown on six big screens and minimizing it to display properly on tablet, mobile devices and smart watches.
That’s where our terrific minds at the Lab bring added value, taking us to a leadership position in driving the sort of innovation and disruptive change that has the potential to change the world’s soon-to-be-obsolete perception of what banking and trading are all about.
The creation of Citi's Global Innovation Network has presented us with a unique opportunity to write a new chapter in our young lab history. This, along with programs like the Citi Mobile Challenge (which hosted a demo day event in Israel this year), have positioned us as a local FinTech leader. Today, our knowledge combined with our experience has better positioned us to fulfil our original vision of the lab as a constructive disrupter of an industry in transformation.
Looking ahead, on November 16th we will be hosting a global Citi FinTech Expo event in Tel Aviv with 600+ attendees. The Expo will feature our Lab’s solutions and technologies developed in the fields of data, trading, analysis, mobile applications and risk assessment. The startup companies of our Accelerator Class #4 will also participate to showcase their products as well as Fintech companies who are leading the Israeli eco-system. As part of the Expo, for the first time, we’re making a connection between an NGO, the Israel Cancer Association, and a startup company called “Sling,” which has developed a convenient way to pay with smartphones. Sling will provide the NGO’s staff with a wristband and by using the Sling mobile app, attendees at the Expo will be able to contribute as much as they want to the Israel Cancer Association.