Internship at Citibank in Operations

As Delhi reels in the heat, with a look towards the sky with the hope of monsoons, for its people, the summers are not yet over. But if you ask any second year B-school student in India, the summers are done and dusted with. So is the case with me, as I finished my internship at Citibank in Banking Operations profile.

I never really thought of putting my experience in words until today while interacting with the new batch of first years. At Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), we have a buddy system, where every incoming batch student is assigned with buddy from the second year. This is probably there for every B-school, but it was in one such interaction with my buddy that I felt that I should pen my thoughts relating to my summer internship.

The Joining Letter

As every other student, I was eagerly awaiting the joining letter which would have the project details and location. Based on the feedback of my seniors, I was confident of being located in Mumbai along with many of my  batch mates. As things would have it, the email did arrive, but not exactly the news I was hoping for. My project was regarding optimizing the internal processes at the consumer banking division in order to save the time for the supervisors in Chennai. Yes, summers in Chennai. The thought itself was worrying enough with hardly any batch mates interning there. I was so preoccupied with Chennai that I didn’t give much thought to what my project was.

The Induction

My internship started with all the interns reporting to Mumbai head office. It was a nice gesture on part of Citibank to arrange for all the travel and accommodation at Mumbai. As I flew to Mumbai, I met one of the interns on the flight itself. The first evening, meeting the interns, all from the top b-schools across India, was an experience. Nobody could say that we all were meeting for the first time.

The induction process involved meeting all the divisional heads of Citibank. Being a bank of such large operations, it was very informative as I doubt any of us could name all the major divisions before coming. The best part about the induction were the networking sessions, where the senior leaders interacted with us informally over a cup of tea. One of the things that I observed was the longevity of the leaders. Most of the senior leaders were associated with Citibank for a long time and were very happy with the growth opportunities. The highlight was the session with Mr.Pramit Jhaveri, CEO, Citibank India. It was a great opportunity as he discussed with everyone regarding their projects and gave his views.

The days were long with the induction sessions, but the nights were longer with all the partying. We went to popular spots in Mumbai and then followed by partying. As you can imagine the next day would be a fight to stay awake, which I guess any B-school student is used to by now.

Vanakkam Chennai

I arrived in Chennai with no clue where I would put up. I sat in the airport for more than an hour figuring out where I should stay. There were three other interns along with me in Citibank Chennai, and I was hoping that as they had stayed in Chennai earlier, finding a place would not be difficult.

As easy as it sounded it took us 3 days to finally find a good place to stay near our office. One thing I would like to say that one should not be so casual if you are going to Chennai regarding accommodation. A little effort spent in searching though was good.

The Project

When I finally reported to my Manager, I found out that this was just a beginning. Before joining, I had contacted my mentor and had discussed my project. But once I was briefed regarding the objectives, I realized that this was going to be long two months. One advantage that I had was that I had prepared well and had a very good framework already decided.

The project involved studying all the processes which are existing in the division and reduce the turnaround time or TAT as it was called. To just list out all the processes I had to shadow the supervisors and actually do a time motion study, which as those who paid attention in Fundamentals of Management 101 was actually proposed work by Taylor and Gilbreth in late 19th century. Who would have thought that something so basic would be the base of my entire summer project.

A key learning for me was working with various stakeholders. There were various LOB (lines of businesses) across geographies and across shifts. I had to communicate effectively with all the stakeholders that my project would be very helpful for them in the long run. With everyone involved with their regular BAUs (Business as usual. Yes the abbreviations never end.), I had to learn not to obstruct them while also understanding each process. I was lucky that I had wonderful cooperation from everyone and was quick through the first stage.

I would also like to mention here the role of my mentor. My mentor was very enthusiastic and energetic which would rub off on everyone. There were times when I was stuck with some particular process, she would step in and make sure I would not give up.

Thus although I had to put in some rigorous hours, I was successfully able to negotiate, with guidance from my mentor and also desperate calls to my professor and friends who were Six Sigma certified. Yes, all the Six Sigma topics which looked very theoretical to most of us, helped me sail through.

The Final Presentation

My mentor ensured the country head was present in my final presentation. The time allocated was twenty minutes, yet it stretched to more than one and a half hours. All my recommendations were discussed in detail. Although I was grilled a lot, as my mentor told me later, it was a positive thing as there was a serious discussion on it.

PS. My mentor informed me that majority of my recommendations are being followed up and will be implemented. This made it worth all the effort.

Although I have been to many places while I was working, Chennai was completely different. I tried learning the language but two months were not enough. Yet as time passed, Chennai grew on me. I went to all the popular spots like the beaches in ECR and Pondicherry. Being a foodie, all my apprehensions about the food were gone after the first week. I even developed a liking for the south Indian thali and now need to have it every couple of weeks.

The last day of my internship coincided with the annual party. I was made a judge of the cultural competition and enjoyed it a lot. Thus my internship ended on a high note, all puns intended.

I realized that all the theory we study might someday just save us. I had to very quickly ramp up, learn new things, understand complex business environment and work with various stakeholders. Also never be daunted with any challenge which comes up. There is always a way, you just need to look for it.

Well it’s almost the deadline and as true to our MBA souls, I hope I am able to submit before the EOD deadline.