Citi’s Cultural Investor

Lori Szerencsy upgrades how the organization's international locations administer benefits

Today, Citi employees around the world are managing their life within Citi with the click of a mouse—a portal recently launched by Lori Szerencsy and her Citi team in partnership with Willis Towers Watson. The web portal, My Total Compensation and Benefits, will enable more than two hundred thousand employees across the global financial services firm to access their personal compensation and benefits information all in one place. The resource was launched in four countries last May, and it will continue to expand to other markets in the coming months.

“Citi has the ability to add so much value to employees’ lives beyond their paycheck,” says Szerencsy, the organization’s global head of benefits. “The portal puts all of their benefits and rewards at their fingertips. No matter where they are in the world, it’s easier than ever for employees to engage in their healthcare decisions, choose a healthcare plan, or prepare for retirement.”

This new portal is the culmination of several years of work for Szerencsy, whose team is focused on creating offerings that are relevant and functional across the more than 160 countries where Citi has a presence.

The biggest challenge initially in creating the common global portal, Szerencsy adds, was balancing the offerings of a unified brand with the legal and cultural nuances of the thousands of Citi locations across the United States, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Pakistan, India, the United Arab Emirates, and more.

Szerencsy is no stranger to challenges like this. Previously, in the decade after joining Citi in 1999 to streamline the Travelers and Citibank merger, she began a decade-long integration of about two hundred different medical plans into what Citi offers now: two national plans with a strategy that subsidizes based on employee compensation level.

Technological applications have been key to elevating Citi’s holistic benefits mantra, “Live Well, Save Well, Choose Well,” to the world’s stage, according to Szerencsy. The dexterity of an online portal streamlines benefits and covers defined contribution plans and pension plans. In the US, the interactive benefits tool ALEX uses artificial intelligence to help employees select a medical plan and ALEX videos educate employees about preventive care, telehealth, and nurselines.

“Lori has made it her mission to make it easier for employees to understand their benefits and provide them with tools and resources to make better decisions,” says Michael Sigmund, president of health and wealth solutions at Alight Solutions. “Under her leadership, Alight is now working with Lori and her team to make the benefits enrollment experience simpler and more intuitive for Citi employees, which will have a positive impact on the way employees view their enrollment experience, as well as the overall value they see in the benefits provided by Citi.”

Szerencsy and her team understand the value that they can provide employees around the world and the impact it can have on the company’s business. “We think of benefits not just as what policies and offerings we already have in place, but how do employees engage with these benefits and how are we continually improving them based on employee needs and feedback,” she says. “When done right, employees are more apt to use the benefits, and are more satisfied and more productive in their day-to-day jobs.”

“We think of benefits not just as what policies and offerings we already have in place, but how do employees engage with these benefits and how are we continually improving them based on employee needs and feedback.”

In addition to creating the global portal, Szerencsy and her team are focused on sharing local programs and approaches more broadly across the firm. For example, the team is working on ways in which to share aspects of the “Minds that Matter” campaign, a mental health program launched in the United Kingdom, in the US and elsewhere.

“I come from a long line of teachers and principals in my family,” Szerencsy says. “It set the tone for how I approach my projects now, because it’s about understanding your audience. If we learn what the most important questions and answers are, we can diffuse any change angst because even when change is good, it can be hard.” She cites a college psychology class in which she learned more about the personalities that people take on in a group setting, a lesson in group dynamics that continues to influence her adaptable leadership style today.

Yet Szerencsy did not set out to be in benefits. She first studied to become a physician while earning a bachelor’s degree at Binghamton University, but soon realized she didn’t want to pursue medical school. However, she remained passionate about the healthcare field. She found her niche at Hunter College, where she earned a master’s degree in public health, focusing on community health education. After graduation, she worked for a consulting firm handling health and productivity management analytics when two of her clients, Travelers Group and Citibank, announced their merger. She was consulting on-site to help harmonize their two different benefits philosophies, and joined the firm officially in 1999. At Citi, she also covered pharmacy, medical, and 401k functions before her promotion to the director of health and welfare and then again to global head of benefits.

She describes her entrance into the world of benefits as a leap of faith and a function she continues to enjoy leading at Citi. After wrapping up the “enormous and exciting undertaking” of the My Total Compensation and Benefits portal, she says her team will continue conducting demographic reviews and stay vigilant about the changing needs of Citi employees’ core and non-core benefits, referred to as the “Little Bs.”

“From the lunch subsidy in Israel to museum discounts and from uniform allowances to Mother’s Day cards, we’re changing how we look at these little benefits that may be equally important to our employees,” adds Szerencsy, who is reframing what total rewards looks like for the global workforce. “Employees need to know that when they give their all at Citi, their firm is dedicated to giving back to them.”

Mercer is honored to partner with Citi in creating a diversified benefit offering to meet the needs of its employees. We congratulate Lori and her team for enabling Citi employees to Live Well and focus on the moments that matter most.