One of the reasons Alice Milligan loves the payments field is because there’s so much room to improve processes. This satisfies her on many levels.
“I get immense joy out of fixing things, seeing them change and transform—whether it’s a cumbersome payment process within an app or renovating a house so the floor plan maximizes design, space and function,” said Milligan, managing director and chief customer and digital experience officer at Citi Global Cards.
Milligan joined Citi in 2014 after working in key global marketing positions at companies including AT&T, American Express and Coach, steadily intensifying her focus on the digital customer experience. When she arrived at Citi, the bank was working to achieve parity with competitors in terms of core digital functionality, but things were about to change.
A turning point came when Citi’s global consumer banking chief Stephen Bird in 2015 radically accelerated the bank’s digital transformation by putting mobile technology at its center, and Milligan’s job put her on the front lines.
In its mission to be a mobile-first bank, Citi became first major credit card issuer to allow customers to dispute a charge directly within its banking app, according to Milligan, who is one of PaymentsSource's Most Influential Women in Payments for 2018.
Milligan is interested in the potential for artificial intelligence to enhance the user experience in financial services.
“Many companies are experimenting with this vision, but no one has mastered it,” she said, noting that the possibilities for financial services companies to achieve breakthroughs are huge.
Milligan is excited about payments’ future, but she concedes that women face challenges getting ahead in this industry and others, based on the fact that only 5% of CEOs in the S&P 500 are women.
“We can do better,” she said, adding that women need to remain confident, own their successes and their voices, and advocate for other women rising through the ranks.
“There’s a shortage of female confidence in the workplace,” Milligan said, observing that many women feel they have to be flawless before they can speak up and express their views.
“You don’t have to be perfect—you just have to want something enough that you’re willing to fight for it and put yourself on the line,” she said.
Milligan came to this realization when she discovered that her toughest critic was herself.
“Early in my career, I spent many meeting thinking of things but not speaking up, because I lacked confidence and doubted the value of my thoughts and ideas," she said. "Once I started focusing on my strengths and speaking up with my ideas—that were often unique and different from the others—I started being recognized."
As Milligan’s confidence grew, colleagues sought out her perspective and asked her to join their meetings and teams. “It changed not only how I thought about my contributions, but how others thought about them as well and my career really took off.”
She learned the value of teamwork early in her career.
“At AT&T, I had a female boss who knew and understood the power of positive relationships,” she said. "As a leader she created an environment where people felt connected and personally involved, and she taught me that relationships matter—not only in our personal lives, but our professional lives. I’ve strived to emulate that with my teams throughout my career in my own way and style."
READ MORE: The Most Influential Women in Payments, 2018