Spotlight On: Rebecca O’Connell, NYC Metro Market Executive, Citizens

Spotlight On: Rebecca O’Connell, NYC Metro Market Executive, Citizens

3 min read May 2023 —Citizens is not slowing down. Despite the current recession risk, the bank is looking forward to continuing to expand in the New York metro region. “We are accelerating our growth plans and continue to stay aligned and focused on the investment that’s needed to continue to grow,” NYC Metro Market Executive Rebecca O’Connell told Invest:. 

What is your general outlook for the economy and how are you engaging clients in the New Jersey market, particularly?

I think the U.S. economy continues to be one of the strongest and most resilient in the world despite the burden of rising interest rates and high inflation, which is showing signs of potentially decreasing. The recession risk is something that we continue to keep our eyes on as does any prudent financial institution or corporation. We think that this may manifest as a shallow and short recession rather than a hard landing, particularly given the current job strength. The big question here remains what is the extent of the cooling that we’ll see as a result of the Federal Reserve’s action and whether the Fed will then pause. 

Our priorities in the New Jersey market specifically are to help our clients navigate through this time and to help them understand what they need to be thinking about as it relates to retaining talent, preparing for a recession and preparing for a downturn.

What highlights or successes have positioned Citizens Bank well?

As the head of the New York metro market, which is inclusive of Northern and Central New Jersey, the key highlight for us is the recent acquisition of 80 HSBC branches on the East Coast and our acquisition of Investors Bancorp, closing the donut hole, so to speak, in our branch network. We have a high concentration of market share in New England as well as in the Mid-Atlantic. When we looked at Metro New York, that’s what we viewed as that donut hole and it was a great opportunity despite the competition in the market. We love being the official bank of the New Jersey Devils and the New York Giants, but that is only one way we demonstrate our commitment to the community and our customers. When someone chooses Citizens, they are selecting a partner committed to helping them achieve their goals. We work together to deliver smart advice, creative ideas, innovative products and solutions, and personalized experiences to help our clients navigate and grow in changing circumstances.

Have you noticed any shifts or changes in demand for what the bank offers?

Most of our commercial clients had already refashioned their business model coming out of COVID. They are in good shape, despite inflation and supply chain issues and pressure in their margins.  I wouldn’t say the demand has shifted. It’s more about having expanded what we can offer our New Jersey client base. Citizens can offer an expanded set of product solutions and capabilities. Our conversations have deepened. It has allowed us to expand those existing client relationships and it positions us well for continued growth in the local market.

What is the bank doing to support workforce development? 

We recently convened a workforce development summit in Jersey City and announced our contributions to help support workforce development across the state, which consisted of $340,000 in grants and support for workforce development to the Urban League LISC. Workforce development continues to be a premier focus for Citizens. We will continue to listen to members of our communities and deliver for them on what are the most important issues that they are facing today. Workforce development continues to come up as a top priority locally.

How have you experienced the impact of technology in the banking and financial services sector?

We recognized those changes early on and we’ve made strategic investments in partnerships to compete. Our digital bank Citizens Access is just one example of solutions that are winning over customers. Our buy now, pay later solution Citizens Pay and our FastLine Home Equity Line of Credit solution have been very well-received by customers. Our accessOPTIMA platform for commercial clients is best in class. We’ve worked hard to find the right digital and human mix and we continue to invest in talent and technology.

Why is New Jersey a good place to do business?

New Jersey has a significant number of advantages, and not just from a business perspective. It is also a great place to live and work. We all continue to see growth in the near term in consumer services while the cost of capital expenditures is elevated for manufacturers. As I look at New Jersey, I see concentrations in logistics and manufacturing where Citizens has focused industry expertise as opportunities to help clients. 

What is your outlook for the bank over the next two to three years? 

New York and New Jersey are some of the most strategic growth markets for Citizens today and going forward. We are not slowing down. We are accelerating our growth plans. We are investing in the New York metro market. We have a deep understanding of the increasingly complex challenges our clients face and a strong track record of helping them succeed. Our clients receive personalized insights from advisors they can trust to provide support and propel their growth at every stage. We continue to stay aligned and focused on the investment that is needed to continue to grow here and leverage our whole suite of products and capabilities to benefit customers.

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