Making Banking Invisible: Citi Head of Digital Driss Temsamani

Long before the recent influx of tech and capital, Miami was Citi's HQ for all Latin American digital banking initiatives.

There has been a lot of change in Miami over the past few years. With new companies being founded or moving to the city every day, an influx of capital being injected into startups, and neighborhoods like Wynwood becoming tech meccas seemingly overnight, Miami looks a whole lot different than it did just five years ago. 

One thing that remains unchanged is the city’s diverse Latin American culture. According to recent demographics reports, 70% of Miami’s population is Hispanic. That diverse population has lived and thrived in the city for decades, producing its own powerhouse list of entrepreneurs and digital leaders. 

Driss Temsamani is one of those people. He has lived in Miami for over 35 years, with 26 spent in digital-focused roles with banking giant CitiGroup. During that tenure, he has held positions in a few different Central and South American countries, but Miami has always remained home. 

“When I used to work for tech companies in the 90s, tech was tech,” says Temsamnani, recalling the evolution of his industry. “Now, tech is business. Tech is everything. I’ve really been able to see these new business models emerge—ones that are highly valued and diverse.” 

In his current role as Head of Digital for Citigroup Treasury & Trade Solutions (TTS) Latin America, Temsamani oversees a large tech team based in Miami that serves all of Citi’s 20+ LatAm markets, including Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. According to Citi, three years ago, 60% of its Latin American clients were considered digital—today, that number is 75%, and it’s not a stretch to say that Temsamani and his team are responsible for a lot of that surge. The digital platforms his team develops impact millions of users on a daily basis, and the evolution of his role has largely followed the evolution of digital platforms as a whole. 

Miami’s digital banking evolution

Temsamani moved from Citi’s analytics team in the early 2010s to focus on business innovation, finally settling into a “digital” role in 2017. However, his history of working on the ‘e-business’ side of things (it’s what big corporations called digital platforms a decade and a half ago) spans Temsamani’s entire career at Citi. 

“I came to Citi in 1994 with the goal to roll out a distributed computing credit application that was running on Lotus Notes [a mid-90s IBM software product],” explains Temsamani. “I spent a lot of my time thinking about the architecture and the technology and how it was going to electronically transform our organization.”

“It’s no longer solely about hard technology skills. We look for people that understand technology, but even more, understand the power of experiences.”

Driss Temsamani, Head of Digital for Citigroup TTS Latin America

Even in its current form, many businesses don’t understand what “digital transformation” actually means. Temsamani, however, was bringing this thinking to his company way back in 1994—just replace “digital” with “electronic.” 

Eventually, Temsamani relocated to Buenos Aires to become Citi’s CIO of e-business. It was here, right around the first wave of internet popularity, that Temsamani understood the power digital platforms could have for the bank and its clients. 

“In 2001, we realized the idea is that we should use the internet to transform our business operating model and transform the way we do business.” 

Those two experiences mark the “electronification” and “internet” era of Temsamani’s career thus far. Fast forward to now, and he clearly understands that the digital transformation era has been firmly established. But according to Temsamani, there was one resource that he and Citi never really thought about in the early days that has become digital transformation’s defining characteristic. 

“It’s all about data,” he says. “Data not only plays a big role in the value proposition of a bank, but data also becomes money, and interactions, and new products. Data is everything we do with our clients on a daily basis.”

Building engaging digital experiences

With this digital-first approach to banking that has really come to a head during the pandemic, Temsamani and his teams have really stepped back to understand the power of data and its impact on creating engaging experiences for consumers and clients. 

Last month, Citi TTS unveiled a new Digital Account experience for its Latin American institutional users. Developed by Temsamani’s team in Miami, the new account utilizes the bank’s technologies such as digital onboarding, e-signatures, and online product activations to bring every part of that institutional experience online. The new account removes the need for checkbooks and manual transactions while also adding new digital self-service capabilities and enhanced biometrics authentication.

“One of the profound impacts digitization is having is that it’s collapsing individual industries into ecosystems,” says Temsamani. “So for us, it means connecting these vertical industries in a seamless way. We want to be an invisible bank—we want to be there, in that digital experience, integrating multiple things together so that the end-user doesn’t have to exit out. That’s our winning formula.” 

“We share ideas, talk about digital, and just that by itself is making the city very vibrant in this technology scene right now.”

Driss Temsamani

This focus on seamless UX has also resulted in Temsamani recruiting his digital teams in Miami and LatAm a bit differently. There is no longer solely a focus on those “hard” technology skills. 

“Now we look for people that understand technology, but even more, understand the power of experiences,” he says. “So it’s very different to build solely around the branch, versus building that same experience in the digital world. It can be hard to think about becoming invisible in an experience of commerce or logistics. But we have to become more and more invisible.”

Citi TTS’ new Digital Account is just one example of many recent digital transformation projects Tamsamani has overseen. As new capital and ambitious founders flood into Miami, it’s important to remember the city had a rich history of digital development before Mayor Suarez’s tweet. For decades, Temsamani and the Citi LatAm team have been scaling digital finance solutions for the countries and cultural backgrounds that make up most of the city’s population. 

Still though, with his role and title at Citi evolving and shifting quickly over the last two decades, there is certainly a parallel to be drawn. 

“The city has changed, right? It has diversified a lot,” Temsamani says. “Miami used to be a ‘six months of the year’ city. Now it’s 12, and we have this deep digital community you can really interact with. It started with conferences coming here and has really accelerated over the last six or so years. A lot of the people I meet at conferences and in technology now are from Miami, not just visiting.”

“We share ideas, talk about digital, and just that, by itself, is making the city very vibrant in this technology scene right now.”