Widgets Magazine

Citi exec shares thoughts, inspiration


Citi’s chief innovation officer and one of the most powerful women in business today, Deborah Hopkins, spoke to over 300 people packed into the NVIDIA Auditorium in the Huang Engineering Center on Wednesday afternoon.


Hopkins is the first of a set of speakers in the 1-unit course MS&E 472, also known as the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar. The seminar is open to the public and brings prominent entrepreneurial voices to campus once a week to share their insights with the Stanford community.


Tina Seelig, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), which, in conjunction with Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES), helped organized the event, introduced Hopkins as “someone passionate about creativity and entrepreneurship.”


Hopkins has a long and successful history in the business world, previously holding positions such as CFO of Boeing and General Motors. She joined Citi in 2003, working in technology and strategy before being tapped by CEO Vikram Pandit to become chief innovative officer in 2008.


Based in Palo Alto, her main aim is client-based innovation and forming partnerships with start-ups, universities and thought leaders.


“I am absolutely delighted to be here,” Hopkins said. “We are passionate about being part of this campus and being involved in what you are doing here.”


Hopkins was instrumental in establishing a presence for Citi in Silicon Valley in the last three years. In 2011, Citi met with 600 start-up companies in the area and invested in eight of them.


“Being in the Valley is a core component for us,” Hopkins said.


Citi has a strong connection to Stanford, working with Stanford start-ups such as ReadyForZero, which helps people pay off their debts. Hopkins said Citi invested in the company and is looking at how to commercialize the idea and offer it to its own customers.


Hopkins highlighted the Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street protests, citing the impact of technological revolutions on business.


“We are going through a time of a confluence of events we have never witnessed before,” Hopkins said. “The world is forever changed by the way we communicate and use technology and data. This will fundamentally change the way business is conducted.”


She stated that because of the advancement of technology, businesses must now adapt by having a more open communication network and be more involved in a dialogue with their customers.


According to Hopkins, aspects like web design and social marketing, not traditionally linked to banking, are now crucial elements in the industry.


Citing Citi’s Smart Banking project, which redesigned the entire process of consumer banking, she said Citi’s goal is to simultaneously make banking accessible and enjoyable while maintaining a firm moral commitment to help people make better financial decisions.


“Banking is thought of as intimidating and awful,” she said. “ But it is concerned with the most intimate things in your life like buying a house or opening your first account.”


Hopkins repeatedly mentioned Citi’s role and expansion in Asia, which is being used as a zone to test new strategies and where branches are spreading rapidly.


“I liked her emphasis on mobile technology,” said audience member George Burgess ’15, managing director of EducationApps Ltd. “The way Citi has integrated mobile devices into their Asian stores is extremely creative.”


“I found her to be a very strong businesswoman,” said another audience member Narjis Sarehane ’13. “She inspired me to pursue my interest in business.”