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Is new Citi planning tool late to the game?

Seeking “more intuitive” financial planning services for clients, Citi has launched a new goals-based tool for its advisors — a move one expert thinks could help the bank as much as its clients.

Citi Wealth Advisor will help “clients create a financial roadmap that's unique to [their top goals], whether that means sending their kids to college, retiring early or buying a dream vacation home," John Cummings, head of Citi’s U.S. Consumer Wealth Management division, said in a statement about the tool, which the bank is launching with PIEtech, maker of MoneyGuidePro.

Citi Citigroup Citigold April 1, 2019
The Citigroup Inc. logo is displayed atop the Champion Tower, left, in Hong Kong, China, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Citigroup, the global investment bank with a major presence in Asia, has ousted eight equities traders in Hong Kong and suspended three others after a sweeping internal investigation into its dealings with some clients, people familiar with the matter said. Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

Clients with at least $200,000 in linked deposit, retirement and investment accounts can use it for free, Citi says.

The offering is a relatively late entrant to an already crowded competitive field.

Digital financial planning tools are already in wide use across the industry, says Greg O’Gara, senior research analyst in Aite Group's wealth management practice, who says he doubts Citi Wealth Advisor will attract many new clients. Indeed, about 82% of all advisors use them, according to Financial Plannings latest Tech Survey. What's more, Citi advisors may benefit by leveraging client data, he adds.

“I think this is more of a mechanism for Citi advisors to understand their clients better,” says O'Gara, adding that it could boost client retention. ”You see other banks trying to use digital platforms to scale relationships across their client base.”

Beyond the tool itself, O'Gara also sees other potential benefits to Citi's new relationship tool.

Because Citi Wealth Advisor was built in partnership with PIEtech, Citi may be able to leverage data from that firm’s flagship product, MoneyGuidePro — and from its parent, Envestnet — to further understand its client base, O'Gara says.

“Envestnet, with all their acquisitions over the years, now has a tremendous amount of access to data,” he says. “The more data you have on your clients, the better you know your clients, the more engaged you can be with them.”

Those clients with enough money to use Citi Wealth Advisor for free also will have access to commission-free ETF trading and newly issued U.S. Treasury purchases, the bank says.

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Citi Wealth Advisor is designed to allow clients to model various “what if” scenarios that highlight different pathways to achieving their goals, according to Citi. These include "controllable elements," such as increasing savings or adjusting retirement dates, as well as uncontrollable events such as market downturns, changes in inflation or to Social Security benefits. It also includes a “confidence score,” which purports to estimate clients’ probability of success in achieving a particular goal, and suggests how they can maximize their efforts, the bank says.

By collecting and leveraging more information about its clients, the new planning tool could work in two ways, O'Gara thinks.

“It's a pull, and perhaps a push strategy,” he says. “It will either get [Citi] clients to think about their financial goals and pick up the phone — or Citi will have this information and they can pick up the phone and call that client.”

A spokesman at Citi declined to comment on the number of financial advisors and Citigold clients at the firm.

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