New York: Chief executive officer (CEO) of Citigroup Inc.Vikram Pandit is meeting workers and clients in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia this week in an effort to boost confidence after the departure of regional chief Ajay Banga, people familiar with the matter said.
Pandit, 52, is pushing for international growth, arguing that foreign markets offer the best opportunity for Citigroup to rebuild a capital base eroded by the financial crisis and repay $45 billion (Rs2.18 trillion) of bailout funds provided by the US government. Citigroup has a bigger presence than rivals outside the US, while its domestic bank-branch network is one-sixth the size of San Francisco-based Wells Fargo and Co.’s.
Rebuilding base: Vikram Pandit of Citigroup Inc., at a news conference at the bank’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday. Goh Seng Chong / Bloomberg
“He’s there to connect with employees and clients and conduct business in the region,” Alex Samuelson, a Citigroup spokesman, said in an interview.
Pandit was in Singapore on Wednesday after visiting Hong Kong earlier this week, said the people, who declined to be identified because the CEO’s itinerary wasn’t public. The three people who replaced Banga were Shengman Zhang, chairman of Asia-Pacific, and Stephen Bird and Shirish Apte, regional co-CEOs. Banga, 49, left to become president of MasterCard Inc.
Citigroup’s international-growth strategy may put Pandit at odds with some regulators including Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman Sheila Bair, who says he should push more aggressively to hive off foreign units to curb risks and make the company easier to manage, people familiar with the matter said last month.
Citigroup’s ongoing banking and trading operations, which Pandit has bundled into a division called Citicorp, produced bigger second quarter earnings in Asia than any other region.
Citicorp Asia had $1.16 billion of net income in the quarter, compared with $986 million in Europe and West Asia, $742 million in Latin America and $169 million in the US and Canada. The bank operates in at least 19 countries in Asia, according to its website.
Pandit’s visit to Malaysia coincides with the 50-year anniversary of the bank’s presence there, according to the press release. The company has about 3,500 employees there, according to the website.
In Hong Kong, Citigroup is the largest foreign financial institution, with 27 branches and more than 4,000 employees, according to the site.
Citigroup employs 9,000 people in Singapore, making it the city-state’s largest banking employer, according to the website.
Singapore is the regional centre of the bank’s transaction-processing business, which handles 30,000 fund transfers totalling $30 billion daily and 76,000 securities trades of about $33 billion a day, it said.
Worldwide, Citigroup had 279,000 employees as of 30 June, according to its second quarter earnings report. That figure has declined by 96,000 since Pandit’s arrival, as he shed businesses including German retail banking and the Smith Barney US retail brokerage.