A headshot of a young woman smiling at the camera.
Arlene Ennis. Image: Citi

What’s it like working in the ever-changing fintech landscape?

1 Sep 2022

Citi’s Arlene Ennis discusses her work leading the technology build that supports the company’s digital consumer payments initiative.

Arlene Ennis works as the global technology head of Spring by Citi, the company’s digital consumer payments initiative within its treasury and trade solutions technology division.

She has almost 20 years’ experience in financial services, a bachelor’s degree in software engineering and an MBA from Dublin City University.

Ennis joined Citi in 2002 and has held roles in operations, client delivery and technology. She also supports multiple initiatives that are aimed at young people and women in tech.

‘I find myself constantly evaluating the e-commerce experiences I personally have’

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

I wish there was a typical day in my role, as it varies day to day. But usually, I am in the office three days per week, remote two. I have a lot of meetings over the course of the day as I have teams in India, EMEA and North America, so depending on the time of the day I will be interacting with different colleagues.

Zoom, Teams chat and email are the tools that I use all day. I manage my workload by prioritising what really needs to get done and is achievable in any day or a given week. I tend to have a list on a Monday of four or five key things to achieve during the week and it helps me focus on what’s important.

What types of project do you work on?

I have been working on major technology projects for the last number of years. Currently I am leading the technology build supporting Citi’s digital consumer payments initiative.

I am really enjoying leading this project as e-commerce was a new domain for me and I have learned so much over the last three years.

As a new technical implementation, it has been really energising for me and the team to build an e-commerce solution from scratch. The freedom of creating a modern technology stack with no legacy to contend with has been an amazing experience.

I get great personal satisfaction as more and more clients leverage this solution and have pride in everything the Spring by Citi team have accomplished to date.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

On a daily basis it’s all about people, people, people – building and managing positive relationships, open communication, negotiation and project execution.

When I started working on the digital consumer payments project, it was a small core team. However, over the last two years we have had to scale significantly and the team has grown exponentially.

I really had to focus on my delegation skills, building the confidence and competence of the people in my team to take on additional responsibility and grow in their own careers. I spend a lot of my time focused on building the core competency of my team through delegation, so my team have a voice and I don’t become a bottleneck to progress!

What are the hardest parts of your working day?

The hardest point in my day is saying goodbye to my kids in the morning, they would much prefer if I stayed home and played with them all day. As my children are young, there has been several tearful mornings, which can take its toll and is not a great way to start anyone’s day.

When I am in work, back-to-back meetings can take a toll and, as an introverted person, I have to slot in time during the day to have some non-meeting time. This allows me to recharge my energy and focus during the day.

As I spend most of my working day communicating with other people, I always try to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of humour with my colleagues. I find this can make the most challenging days a bit better for everyone.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the day?

If you are leading a team, I really believe in investing in your people. It is so important to support them in their career growth by delegating effectively to them. This enables them to grow and frees up time for you as you build trust and capability of your team.

I get a lot of email and meeting traffic and I tend to delegate this and ‘step out’ of stuff that can and should be managed by someone in my team.

I am also a big believer in the power of a list and use a pencil and paper every day to keep track of important things that need to get done.

What skills and tools are you using to communicate daily with your colleagues?

During the pandemic, it was all Zoom and I think everyone had to adjust to building relationships remotely. This year as travel has opened, I have been travelling to meet people in person and strengthen the relationships and improve communication.

It has also been great being back to the office and speaking to people in person, as you get to touch base with a wider network of colleagues and have the ‘watercooler’ discussions.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

My current role is always evolving to support new payment concepts and technology supporting digital consumer payments.

It’s exciting to consider how people pay for things globally. This varies from market to market considering cards, digital wallets, alternative payment methods, bank transfers, instant payments, etc, and even looking to the future of biometric payments, will people pay with their fingerprint or palm?

It is an ever-changing landscape and my role evolves with it as we develop digital payment solutions for Citi’s clients.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The people and the possibilities. I really enjoy working with my team, colleagues and partners. I am fortunate to work with diverse people from all around the world and they are great to work with.

I love e-commerce and the possibilities of how payments and the underlying technology supporting this domain are evolving. It’s so exciting and I find myself constantly evaluating the e-commerce experiences I personally have and considering how it could be better for me and a merchant.

What could have been better to get me to spend more? Did I abandon my shopping as the checkout experience was painful? I really do love online shopping!

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