Singapore: Citigroup aims to win a larger share of Asia’s equity capital markets and to expand in Indonesia by getting a stockbroking licence, its Asia Pacific head said on Friday.
Citi has been extending its reach and hiring people across Asia even as it streamlines its North American operations and sheds businesses that it no longer considers as core.
“Asia stands out as the region with the best growth and has the best potential for growth... At this stage, we are just looking at organic investments, organic growth,” Citi’s Asia Pacific joint CEO Shirish Apte told Reuters in an interview.
“We have got aggressive hiring plans,” he added, saying this included about 200 people in Singapore this year.
Most of the new hires across Asia will be for the consumer bank, which has plans to open new branches in most Asian cities.
Citi recently started retail banking in Vietnam, and it has announced plans to set up an Islamic subsidiary in Malaysia as well as venture into rural areas of China.
Apte said Citi intended to put a greater emphasis on equity capital markets, where it lags its rivals in Asia, although he added the bank will not pursue growth at the expense of profits. Citi is stronger in debt and forex markets.
Apte is one of Citi’s two CEOs for the Asia Pacific region. Based in Singapore, he focuses on Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Guam. Stephen Bird, Citi’s other Asia Pacific CEO, is based in Hong Kong and pays more attention to Greater China, Japan and Korea.
Turning to Indonesia, Apte said Citi’s focus will be on growing its business in the large cities to tap rich Indonesians and cater to corporate clients that are showing an increasing interest in Asia’s third most-populous country.
“There are a lot of our international clients who are investing in these markets. We have their custody business, so to have a brokerage business will be very positive,” he said.
Asia accounted for 30%, or $4.5 billion, of Citigroup’s net income last year. The region accounts for about a quarter of revenues.
Citi ranked third in the league tables for Asia Pacific emerging market bonds last year, according to Thomson Reuters data.
But for equity-related issuances in emerging Asia excluding China A shares, Citi fell to number six in 2009 from second place in 2008.
“The league tables are important because it gives a message to clients about your capabilities, but at the same time I think what is important is that you do the right deals as well,” he said.