Citi cuts retail bank in China, 12 other markets; Hong Kong dodges ax | Apple


Citigroup on Thursday announced a surprise withdrawal from retail banking in 13 markets, including mainland China and Taiwan, as part of what the U.S. financial services giant described as an “ongoing strategic review.”

The firm said it will exit consumer banking in 10 Asia-Pacific markets — Australia, mainland China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam — as well as Poland, Russia and Bahrain.

However, in a vote of confidence in Hong Kong, Citigroup said its retail business would not be affected in China’s embattled global financial hub. And in fact, the bank plans to beef up some parts of its business in the city.

“We are going to double down on wealth,” Chief Executive Jane Fraser said.

“Citi will focus its Global Consumer Bank presence in Asia and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) on four wealth centers — Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE and London,” the bank announced while reporting first-quarter earnings Thursday.

Hong Kong is a key strategic market for the group and one of the largest contributors to its global revenue, said Angel Ng, CEO for Citi Hong Kong and Macao. Citi planned to hire 1,500 to 1,700 more people for its wealth management business in the city, she said in an interview last month.

While exiting retail banking in the 13 markets, Citigroup said it will retain its institutional client business, including private banking, cash management and investment banking.

Citigroup maintained an outstanding business in those markets, Fraser said, but in terms of consumer banking didn’t “have the scale we need to compete.”

According to Apple Daily Taiwan, Singapore-based DBS Bank is planning to take over Citi’s 44 branches in Taiwan.

The New York-based bank saw earnings of US$7.94 billion in the first quarter of this year, a year-on-year increase of 2.13 times. However, revenue fell 6.8% to US$19.3 billion.

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