How Citibank Uses Learning to Stay Ahead of the Game

Laurie Rebholz

Director of Professional Development at Citibank

March 17, 2017

Over the last few years at Citi, we’ve been on a journey to reinvent workplace learning. New technologies are reshaping the competitive landscape, and we must respond accordingly in our ongoing pursuit of delighting our clients. We have to stay ahead of the game by identifying skills gaps in our workforce and we must close those gaps in order to remain competitive and a leader in our industry. At Citi, learning is viewed as a critical asset to maintain and enhance business performance in a rapidly evolving landscape.

We’re on a continuous journey where there is no destination or endpoint as we are constantly improving how we deliver learning to our employees. But here are a few things that have worked for us so far.

Learning advisors keep us in tune with real needs

A number of years ago, we recognized the value of delivering a consistent learning experience globally, and created a centralized unit responsible for the design and development of that learning experience. Today, our central function is responsible for learning solutions that can be leveraged across our regions to develop leadership, executive, and professionals skills. At the same time, we have teams of Learning Advisors for specific businesses or functions (e.g. Consumer) to keep L&D in tune with business needs and enable us to offer tailored learning solutions for more technical needs.

L&D should lead, not follow

At Citi, our Learning Advisors partner with their designated clients to understand the desired business outcomes, and advise on learning solutions to bridge the gap from where they are to where they need to be. Our Learning Advisors work to understand the challenges and skills that will be required to drive growth over the short and long-term horizon.

Historically in our profession, many learning teams have been seen as order takers, providing specific solutions that are requested by clients. L&D teams often find themselves facing requests where the solution is already defined, versus being presented with the problem. Sometimes that prescription is correct, and other times it isn’t! The successful HR and L&D professional in today’s world is one that listens to client needs and then leads the client to the optimum solution. We have to embrace strategic consulting skills, ask the right questions, and possess the tenacity, perseverance, and business acumen to deeply understand our industry. We’re still getting there for sure. For us, we’ve had to become knowledgeable about the financial industry and well versed in industry trends so we can offer forward-looking, strategic advice when it comes to people development.

Learning anytime, anywhere is here, and we need to embrace it

When I first started my career in learning and development 20 years ago, it was all about delivering in-person training. I loved seeing the light bulbs spark in employees’ eyes in the classroom. When people started talking about online learning, many of us resisted and refused to acknowledge that it would ever take hold. Eventually, I came around.

First, I manage professional development at Citi and focus on learning solutions that will help our global employee population be even more effective in their roles, regardless of their specific level or area of responsibility. Delivering face-to-face in-person training for over 200,000 employees worldwide really wasn’t the right model for us at Citi. So we had to think differently. How are we going to accomplish our goals with a small team?

Second, I had very smart colleagues who asked me a challenging question – the last time I had to learn something new in my personal life, what did I do? I thought about when I had to teach my six-year old son how to tie his shoes – and of course I searched for a video! That was my “aha moment,” if people like me are learning via online videos at home, why wouldn’t we leverage this same behavior at work? This new type of solution empowers employees to learn what they want, when and how they want — opening doors on how we deliver learning at Citi.

Looking ahead in 2017

Our number one goal at Citi is to continue to evolve and support a culture that’s client-focused, responsible, agile, and competitive. Learning is playing a critical role in achieving this goal. At the end of the day, I’m passionate about the people on my team and our ability to work together to make a difference at Citi. The inspiration that drives us every day is to make people’s lives better through learning.

Laurie Rebholz is the Director of Professional Development at Citibank, where Udemy for Business is a learning tool provided to all Citibank employees. She has over 20 years of experience in learning and development and holds an MBA in HR Management from Iona College.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at

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