Exclusive: Citigroup to hire 3,000 people in Asia’s institutional banking business boosting growth

The Citi bank logo is displayed in a showroom in Bangkok, Thailand, May 12, 2016. REUTERS / Athit Perawongmetha / File Photo

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HONG KONG, June 7 (Reuters) – Citigroup Inc (CN) plans to hire about 3,000 new employees for its institutional business in Asia over the next few years, strengthening its focus in a fast-growing region where it has left consumer banking, its chief executive said. Director for the Asia-Pacific Region.

Unreported staff expansion plans underscore Citi’s ambition to make institutional banking and wealth management engines of growth, seeking to boost revenue in a region that has become a battleground for global banks looking to capitalize on their vast economies and growing wealth.

Citi’s institutional business includes investment banking and corporate and commercial banking units that provide commercial finance, cash management, payments and custody services, among others.

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“We are talking about real meat on the bone as we grow our business in Asia,” Asia Pacific CEO Peter Babay told Reuters. Babei took over the role in 2019 and before that he worked as the global head of the group of financial institutions of the bank.

Citi has about $ 200 billion in assets in Asia and the bank is “on track” to increase customer assets by $ 150 billion by 2025, a spokesman said, despite global economic and market uncertainty.

The expansion of the bank’s Asian institutional business is in addition to plans announced last year to hire about 2,300 people by 2025 for its wealth management unit.

Citi said last year that $ 7 billion of capital released from the sale of consumer banking businesses in 13 markets, 10 of which are in Asia, would be either returned to shareholders or invested in profitable institutional banking and wealth management units.

The bank’s main regional institutional business is in Hong Kong and Singapore, and Babage said the two centers will be a key focus for the unit’s 3,000 additional staff. It does not disclose the existing number of employees for the business.

“This gives you the feeling that the size of the set of investments we are talking about, both from the point of view of people and from the point of view of capital, is very important,” Babei said.

Last year, Citi set up a single wealth management business to provide services to affluent customers as well as individuals with extremely high net worth. The wealthy business in Asia is also centered around centers in Singapore and Hong Kong.

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“As global growth slows, so does Asia, but relative growth is still higher than most elsewhere in the world,” Babei said.

“And this growth, which translates into portfolio wealth, is one that we are incredibly excited about, and the global solutions we can provide for this wealth are increasingly appropriate for our Asian clients.”

Babei believes that the wealth that has accumulated and continues to grow is “very important” in China, despite macroeconomic cross-winds, uncertainty over Beijing’s so-called pursuit of “common prosperity” and the challenges of COVID’s control measures.

“Even at a lower GDP growth rate (gross domestic product), this is something that is actually growing faster than the rest of the world,” Babei said, noting that the impact of the overall stimulus for prosperity on international Clients’ investments are difficult to predict.

Although the Chinese economy was expected to slow sharply this year due to pandemic challenges, among other things, the head of Citi Asia said that China’s economic and geopolitical challenges will be short-lived and will not change the bank’s strategy.

“We are in China in the long run,” he said. “There are questions in light of the geopolitical and macroeconomic situation, but in the long run we strongly believe in the importance of China.”

However, Babei acknowledged that the inability to travel to China due to the mandatory one-week quarantine for incoming passengers as part of the country’s zero-COVID-19 approach is a challenge for both Citi customers and bankers.

“Our customers are much more likely to work through Zoom, but at the end of the day, especially from a private bank perspective, not being able to travel is a challenge.”

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Report by Scott Murdoch and Selena Lee in Hong Kong; Edited by Sumeet Chatterjee and Kenneth Maxwell

Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.

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