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Asiamoney, January 3 2018

Ever since Francisco Aristeguieta took over from Stephen Bird as Citigroup Asia chief executive in June 2015, he has been talking change and transformation.

Evangelical about digitizing consumer banking and determined to restructure the corporate bank to reflect modern trade patterns and commercial needs, the Venezuelan national has always talked sense. But for most of that time, his take has generally reflected a work in progress, a vision under way but unproven.

Lately, though, the bank’s financials in Asia have started to align in a way that shows what he was aiming for and how far he’s got. After several years of flat performance in the region, much of it pre-dating his arrival, Aristeguieta can now point to five consecutive quarters of growth in Asia Pacific, with every business delivering.  In the third quarter of 2017, the bank delivered $3.75 billion of revenues, up 6% year on year and reflecting an additional nearly $400 million over the course of the year.

Asia is key to the overall Citi story and contributes more to revenue globally than any other part of the world bar North America, typically around a quarter of group revenues. Net income, at $969 million for the third quarter, was up 12% year on year. Better still, it’s broad-based. Citi globally divides its house into GCB (global consumer banking) and ICG (the institutional clients group); both sides are growing. Third-quarter net income from consumer in Asia was up 15% year on year; institutional, 11%.

What Citi wants you to know above all other things is that, unlike a certain other bank it could mention, its income is broad-based across the region, with no individual country accounting for more than 12% of overall regional earnings.

One can play this argument both ways – given the dynamics of the region, shouldn’t a bank want a higher contribution from China? – but to Citi, it is a differentiator and a point of some pride.

So, fair enough: although the jury is still out on its China revamp, particularly around investment banking, generally Citi has done what it said it would do and grown where it said it would grow. So how did it get here, and what’s next?

Read the full article here:

Chris Wright
Chris Wright
Chris is a journalist specialising in business and financial journalism across Asia, Australia and the Middle East. He is Asia editor for Euromoney magazine and has written for publications including the Financial Times, Institutional Investor, Forbes, Asiamoney, the Australian Financial Review, Discovery Channel Magazine, Qantas: The Australian Way and BRW. He is the author of No More Worlds to Conquer, published by HarperCollins.

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