Haas Goes to China; Experiences a Fusion of Culture and Technology

Written by Nausher Cholavaram, Rohan Balwani, Tanya Gupta, Pradeep Khanal, and Edi Lim

Team Yirendai after Final Presentation

Team Yirendai after Final Presentation

We just returned from China after completing a two-week stint with Yirendai, a FinTech company based in Beijing. Our time was filled with experiences that enriched us professionally, personally, and culturally. We learned about the booming economy in China and the uncertainty that comes with it. We also talked to company leads and learned how they think about company strategy. The two weeks were also great exposure to Chinese culture both at and outside of work. We tried different types of Chinese food, watched traditional Chinese opera, and participated in some heavy bargaining when shopping.

Client and project overview

Yirendai, our client, is a leading FinTech company in China. It is a dominant player in the Chinese peer-to-peer (P2P) lending industry and has recently expanded into the Online Wealth Management space. Having made a huge impact in China, Yirendai is now setting their sights on the US!  Yirendai enlisted our help to explore options for their expansion into the US market.

This ask posed a very interesting challenge for us. On one hand, China is far ahead in the world of FinTech with their ubiquitous use of technology for making payments and conducting business via mobile phones. For example, we saw panhandlers and street musicians display QR codes for WePay to facilitate donations, and we ate at a food court where no cash or credit cards were accepted. On the other hand, we learned that Chinese investors don’t possess the same level of sophisticated planning and diversification that investors in other markets do. When we synthesized all of our learnings and presented our final presentation to Yirendai, they had very incisive questions and couldn’t help themselves but become excited by the ideas we presented.

Project Details

Team Yirendai in IBD Class at Haas

Team Yirendai in IBD Class at Haas

We started the research for our project while in the US. We spent 3 weeks researching P2P Lending and Wealth Management industries in general and our client’s business in particular. We read hundreds of documents about both industries, downloaded P2P lending apps to learn their features and user experience, conducted surveys, and interviewed contacts about their investing behaviors. We had insightful exchanges with our clients where we validated our understanding from field studies with their expert knowledge. The work was intense but totally worth it.

As we arrived in China, we prepared our recommendation. We surveyed the problem-solving toolkit – financial modeling, SWOT, business model canvas, and go-to-market strategy framework – we learned at Haas and implemented them to build our recommendation. We had several discussions about customer segmentation, product differentiation, and customer acquisition strategy with our client’s CFO, Head of Online Wealth Management, Director of Investor Relations, and Head of Product Management. Their invaluable input helped mold our recommendation.

Cultural Immersion

Though China has been lauded for its recent economic advancement, it has a long history of rich culture and tradition. Besides our client, Yirendai, our team was very excited about the Great Wall. We went to the Jinshanling section, which was very scenic and less crowded. Walking 6 hours on the Great Wall didn’t feel enough. We were astonished by its grandeur and humbled by its expanse. Our day at the Great Wall was definitely one of the finest experiences of our stay in China.

Team Yirendai at the Great Wall of China

Team Yirendai at the Great Wall of China

Beijing is full of other historical and cultural sites as well. We visited the Forbidden City, a historical palace museum in Beijing. We toured the Tiananmen Square and other important sites in Beijing including the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and the Lama Temple. We went to the popular Antique market and also playfully immersed ourselves in a  bit of haggling at Beijing’s popular Pearl and Silk markets.

It was a little disheartening to see sun only twice due to poor air quality during our 2-week stay in Beijing, but we remain hopeful the measures being implemented currently will continue to make improvements.

Following our final presentation, our client treated us to a traditional Beijing style dinner along with Beijing Opera – quite a fitting end to our 2 weeks stay in Beijing.

Team Yirendai at the Beijing Opera

Team Yirendai at the Beijing Opera

The China trip was incredible and the IBD experience, priceless. It was like opening the wardrobe and venturing into a new world, both professionally and culturally, with talented fellow Haasies! Our relationship with the client did not end with the conclusion of the project. We are still in touch through WeChat and plan to meet our client on their next visit to the US for a roadshow in the second half of 2018.

 

Haas IBD Blog – Citibanamex

Written by Michelle Boyd, Kira Mikityanskaya​, ​Jack Anderson, Danielle Pinder​ & Neeraj Goyal

The view from our apartment at dawn

The view from our apartment at dawn

As the second Haas IBD team to work with Citibanamex, we knew we up for an interesting experience!  Citibanamex is one of the oldest and largest banks in Mexico, and it has a culture of being traditional.

So how does a massive and traditional bank attract the young and emerging affluent, and adapt to an increasingly digital world? 

That is the question we were trying to help solve, and here is a day in the life:

 6:00 am – 9:00 am

We were fortunate enough to be staying in an Airbnb on the 18th floor of a beautiful apartment complex.  The views from our apartment were incredible, and we were rewarded with amazing sunrises and sunsets – but more importantly we were able to get a sense of how large Mexico City is.  There are over 21 million people living in the greater metro area, which contributes to some of the worst traffic any of us had ever seen.

Although our apartment was less than a mile away from Citibanamex headquarters, our daily commute regularly took over 30 minutes, as we wound our way down the hill and through incredibly dense traffic.

Team picture on the way to the office

Team picture on the way to the office

Our commute!

Our commute!

9:00 am – 1:00 pm

When traffic was light we made it into the office by 9:00am.  The office doors were also a source of daily comedy – we are still not sure what their purpose is.

On one of our first mornings in Mexico we hosted an Ideation Workshop.  We had 17 Citibanamex employees from across the organization come together to help us develop new ideas.  Although this workshop was very generative (over 90 ideas!), it got off to a bumpy start.  Just as we kicked off the workshop with a presentation about our research, we were told we needed to evacuate; a 4.7 magnitude earthquake had just hit a town nearby.

Waiting to be allowed back inside after the earthquake evacuation.

Waiting to be allowed back inside after the earthquake evacuation.

After about 20 minutes of waiting outside, we went back upstairs to finish our

Michelle and Kira going through the office doors

Michelle and Kira going through the office doors

presentation. We then divided into groups and tried to embody different customer personas.  Our goal was to brainstorm the tasks, influences, pain points and feelings that these customers would experience while working with Citibanamex.  These factors were then assembled into a customer journey, which was used as a platform to brainstorm potential solutions.

 

1:00 pm  – 2:30pm

The Ideation Workshop in action

The Ideation Workshop in action

Lunch is Mexico is a production.  Working lunches are not the norm, and employees regularly take an hour and a half to relax and chat with friends.  We tried everything from going to restaurants nearby, ordering from Rappi (the Amazon of Latin America), braving the crowds at the wallet-friendly Citibanamex cafeteria (3 dollars for a three-course meal!), and even the street taco’s.

Michelle and Neeraj digging into the street food!

Michelle and Neeraj digging into the street food!

2:30 pm – 4:00 pm

 Afternoons were filled with team-work sessions, meetings with various stakeholders, and the occasional coffee break.

During this time we saw some challenges related to innovating across such a large organization.  We met with amazing, intelligent and driven people, who were questioning the status quo and tackling big challenges – but were struggling to implement their initiatives, or multiple similar projects were being undertaken in different departments.  For most of our team (who came from small organizations pre-Haas), this was an interesting education in large corporate culture and organizational structure.

Jack taking us through a Hypothesis Tree

Jack taking us through a Hypothesis Tree

4:00 pm – 4:15 pm

Coffee was an important ingredient for our team, and we definitely took advantage of the Starbucks in our building.  For those of us who did not know Spanish before Mexico, ordering coffee was about as far as we got. It was appreciated.

Neeraj with a correctly spelled name and a heart for his improving Spanish

Neeraj with a correctly spelled name and a heart for his improving Spanish

4:15 pm. – 6:00pm

After coffee it was back to work, although on a few days we were lucky enough to get out of the office to learn more about Citibanamex first-hand.  We visited two branches, one traditional branch and one digital branch, as well as a contact center.  These visits gave us greater insight into both the benefits and pain points of being a priority customer.

Team picture in the contact center

Team picture in the contact center

After 6:00 pm  

When we were not indulging in the amazing restaurant scene that Mexico City offers, dinners consisted of Rappi, Uber Eats, and a few homecooked meals.

IBD is pitched as an intense team experience – after spending all day together, we were still each other’s company for dinner.  Our team made the most of this experience, and we turned dinners into friendly ‘interrogations’.  We threw out the etiquette rule of no religion or politics at the table and asked each other about childhoods, families, career goals, weird habits, and everything in between!

Although we never fulfilled Jack’s goal of watching Ten Things I Hate About You (his favorite rom-com), we all became closer friends from this experience, and we had a lot of fun hanging out and exploring what Mexico City has to offer.

Here are a few more highlights!