Before being appointed as the CEO of Citi Indonesia in June 2015, Batara Sianturi had served in the same position for Citi Hungary and Citi Philippines. A 30-year career with Citigroup, combined with extensive work experience gained in 17 countries across Asia, Australia and Europe, as well as a passionate interest in leadership, made him a natural choice for his current role. After writing features on all of the new Citi Indonesia offices, our editor Barbara Hahijary finally got a chance to talk to the boss himself about the CitiWorks office design concept, as well as his career, leadership style and hobby.
PHOTOS BY Bagus Tri Laksono and Citi Indonesia Doc.
What is the working environment like now at Citi?
We have a global concept called CitiWorks that incorporates both hi-tech and hi-touch. With hi-tech, you are connected with a lot of videos and audio conference facilities linking people, and at the same time, hi-touch is about how you collaborate between people through open spaces.
What makes CitiWorks different from other offices you find these days?
It’s very important in the CitiWorks concept that you create a lot of collaborative synergy between people. That’s why if you go round our floors in Citibank Tower at Pacific Century Place in Jakarta, you will see a lot of open spaces, a lot of lights, not too many window rooms, that encourage collaboration. And you could actually talk to people, and see people around you through this open space concept.
And then there’s the hi-technology, whether it is a very flexible work station, linking through video and audio conferences, where you can link from building to building, whether Jakarta to Jakarta or Jakarta to other city branches overseas, that creates connectivity.
Has the new office affected the working ambience? How so?
We are very excited. Moving into a new building is always an exciting thing. But when we see the whole concept of CitiWorks, whether it is the working environment, the work stations, whether it is the amenities, the pantries, the little things, I think it brought energy to our staff when we moved in a few months ago.
How does it feel to come to Citi Indonesia after years of working for Citi in other countries?
I think it gives you a broader picture of the Citi footprint. Citi is represented in close to 100 countries physically, and operates in about 160 countries. So with that exposure, and with eight years in eastern Europe and then two years in the Philippines, I can bring value through the global connection, footprint and practices to Citi Indonesia, and also contribute to the Indonesian banking sector.
Can you update us with the ongoing developments by Citi?
We have a big business here. There are the institutional bank and the consumer banking. Our institutional banking is very important for us. We cover the public sector, local corporates, multinational institutions and we are also in transaction banking and markets. And then we have a very big consumer bank, covering retail banking and the cards business. So I think what we want to ensure is that we bring ‘globality’ to Indonesia, and currently we are also focusing on digitisation, in both the institutional banking and the consumer banking.
What distinguishes Citi Indonesia in the banking industry after being in the country for over 50 years?
We’re very happy that, this year, we’re celebrating our 50 years in Indonesia. I think our legacy will be known for two things. Number one is we are the only bank that exports a lot of talents to the Indonesian banking sector. We have a very strong alumni organisation, taking big jobs in the “C” level in the banking industry, in the private sector and in the public sector. And the second thing is we’d like to be recognised as a leading innovator in the banking sector. We bring a lot of innovations to Indonesia – be it in the institutional bank or in the consumer banking.
Citi has developed various banking products. What is the company’s current focus?
We’re focused on a few things but a lot of work is now being done on digitisation. We have a platform in institutional banking called CitiDirect, and we have a platform in the consumer banking called Citi Mobile. We see that digitisation is going to impact the whole ecosystem of these banking sectors. So there’s a lot of work there and we want to continue to be the best digital bank.
We won the award as the best corporate digital bank and the best consumer digital bank from Global Finance and also from other publications. Digitisation is one of our priorities for the banking sector in Indonesia, especially for Citi Indonesia.
With degrees in Chemical Engineering, can you tell us the origin of your interest in the banking industry? When did you realise that this is what you were meant to do?
Even though my background is in chemical engineering, I’m a great believer that nothing learned would ever be lost. Maybe it’s the approach to my work that stems from my background in chemical engineering. Maybe my management style is more structured and more methodical because I used to be an engineer. But I think there is a lot of diversity in Citi.
We hire accountants, economists, and people from many other backgrounds – from legal and social science to engineering. That brings a strength in diversity to Citi’s talents. And I think the proof is that we export a lot of talents in Indonesia, to other banks, to the private and public sectors.
Tell us about your leadership style.
I’m a great believer in participative management, that it takes a team to do the work. So I’d like to say that we like superstars, but we prefer a winning team. Having a lot of superstars but if the team never wins is useless. So we need to do it together, we should be on the same page as a team, we should be aligned on the vision, and then we just execute and reach for the goal.
How do you spend your free time?
I usually do a lot of exercises in the morning. I wake up around five and do about two hours of sports, whether it’s running or weight lifting or swimming. I also do a lot of reading and listening to jazz music.