Diving In to Challenges: Q&A With Citi’s Global Head of Communications, Jennifer Lowney

Jennifer Lowney, Global Head of Comms at Citi accepts a NYWICI Matrix award from former boss, Steve Lipin

PRNEWS had the privilege of speaking with Jennifer Lowney, Global Head of Communications for Citi, while attending the New York Women in Communications Matrix Awards on May 21, 2024. Lowney oversees the bank's reputation and messaging across nearly 100 countries, guiding a team of 300 professionals. Her career highlights include pivotal communications roles during the Enron and WorldCom bankruptcies and the landmark Facebook IPO at Brunswick Group before joining Citi in 2014.

Lowney shared her experiences navigating the traditionally male-dominated financial industry and highlighted the importance of confidence and support in professional growth. She also reflected on the evolving role of banks in society, and the rewards of career and family life.

[Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.]

PRNEWS: The financial industry can be quite male-dominated. Have you faced any challenges being a woman in this industry? And how have you overcome them? 

Jennifer Lowney: Everybody has their own insecurities—men, women, senior, junior—and we tend to think that our own are worse than anyone else's. But really, everybody's striving to do their best work, and once they see just a sliver of their value, I feel like things can move forward.  

My advice is to put [the insecurity] out of your head and dive into the deep end—which is much easier said than done. Command the table when you feel it’s appropriate without being intimidated. 

PRNEWS: What would you say to someone who feels kind of stuck—whether it's trying to command the table or being overlooked when it comes to speaking up?

Lowney: Many times bosses and managers have really put me in that deep end and then gave me the support I needed, but I also made sure I was going as far as I could on my own. Don't be afraid. 

[The toughest leaders can be] misinterpreted. They have amazingly high standards for all the right things. And by working with those people, [you have] the chance to manage really interesting and important [projects].

And find your people. I love my colleagues, who are my friends, and I’m really lucky to be working for bosses who have always pushed me outside my comfort zone—and I’m glad they did.

PRNEWS: What are Citi’s most pressing communications challenges this year? 

Lowney: Many challenges are specific to Citi. We have a relatively new CEO, Jane Fraser, and she reset the vision and strategy—we're remaking a 200-plus year old bank. Also in the past year, we underwent a pretty significant change—the re-design of the organization. So from an investor perspective, and really all our stakeholders, it's very much a prove-it year for Citi to show if we are delivering. 

There’s a lot of noise in the financial industry for banks, so from a comms standpoint, given the change, my team is acutely focused on making sure the narrative of that progress doesn’t get lost. 

Having gone through significant changes we're also focused on our colleagues internally—building morale and support and buy-in for change.

PRNEWS: You manage a team of 300 employees, who manage Citi’s reputation in nearly 100 countries. What are best practices for maintaining a consistent global message while accommodating local market nuances?

Lowney: Make it as easy as possible. 

Every quarter we send out global messaging. Then I appear at as many team meetings as I can get invited to. We create talking points, slides—I just serve as much of it up on a silver platter as I possibly can, and then help connect the dots. Most of the time the business leader is going to be talking about their own business. I have to help them understand how [the messaging] all comes together, so it feels natural. 

PRNEWS: How does Citi tailor its communication strategies to address the unique challenges of the financial sector? 

Lowney: Of all large American banks, Citi has the biggest global footprint, so virtually everything that happens in the world touches us in some way.

I’ve been at Citi for 10 years, and it’s never not been a dynamic time. It’s what intrigued me [to come to Citi]—we were coming out of the financial crisis, and I was excited to help create the next chapter for the bank. That took longer and was harder than most banks thought it would be.

Having gone through the pandemic—banks had a real opportunity to show how we were part of the solution—(including the accelerated digitization of banking). And again during the 2023 banking turmoil with some smaller banks—bigger banks showed how to be part of the solution. 

It’s kind of been a slow build back, but we’re finally starting to see [gains] in some of the reputation data (see the latest Edelman Trust Barometer with respect to the financial service sector). It’s the first time financial services have been trusted again since 2008. There’s a bigger appreciation for how banks can help an individual. 

PRNEWS: We now know you can handle managing a team of 300. But how does that balance with also managing family time and three kids? 

Lowney: My career and my satisfaction that I get from work—I'm comfortable with that being a huge part of who I am. And what makes me happy. I also love my kids. And I love my family, obviously. It's never been a competition for me.

There’s no on and off switch in PR. And fortunately, I’ve really benefited from full family support, and I’ve been lucky to work with good leaders.

I’ve always been deliberate in how I talk to my kids about work as well. It started out with obvious things like well, mommy has to work because we have to pay our bills, and so we have a house to live in. Then it evolved. The first time I went to Singapore for work, my daughter was pretty young at the time. And she said “I don't want you to leave. Why do you have to go on these trips?” And I said to her, “I hope that one day you have a job that lets you go to places that you're excited to see, because I'm excited to see [this place], and I’m excited to be there.” And then she thought about it for a hot second, looked up at me, and said, “Yeah, me too.”

Nicole Schuman is Managing Editor at PRNEWS.