City Bullish on Thailand
Bank hiring frenzy to boost corporate banking and wealth management in Asia, writes Chiratas Nivatpumin
The city recently held a Bangkok City Hall.
Despite global economic pressures, the outlook for Thailand’s economy remains bright, said Peter Babbage, Citi’s Asia Pacific CEO.
“We are quite optimistic about Thailand. As a growth market, I think it’s strong. I don’t think Thailand will grow. [will be] Off the charts, but it’s a very solid development,” he said in a recent interview with the Bangkok Post.
Mr Babbage said the city is currently forecasting economic growth in Thailand of 3.6% in 2022 and 4.8% in 2023.
Mr Babbage said Thailand should see increasing growth as an investment destination, especially as the country has yet to realize the potential to play a bigger role in global supply chains.
On the other hand, foreign investment is also expected to increase as more Thai companies seek to expand their international presence. In recent years, Citi has raised approximately US$10 billion for Thai issuers from the global capital markets.
“Thailand is in a good place when you look at the overall equation of expertise, talent, education and workforce,” Mr Babej said.
The city currently forecasts economic growth in Thailand of 3.6% in 2022 and 4.8% in 2023.
Expectations of Thailand and Asia to outperform over the next few years are prompting the bank to aggressively increase its footprint, shifting its focus to the region by shifting its focus to institutional banking and wealth management.
Citi raised eyebrows across the industry in 2021 when new CEO Jane Fraser announced plans to exit consumer banking operations in 13 markets around the world, including Thailand.
In January, United Overseas Bank announced it would acquire Citi’s consumer banking assets and staff in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam in a $3.7 billion deal.
Mr. Babbage acknowledged that the decision to sell the consumer business was difficult given Consumer Bank’s prominence and strength in Asia.
Mr Babbage said the decision was based on a “very clinical, balanced assessment” of the bank’s value proposition over the next 10 years.
“In the consumer business, in areas that aren’t affected by globalization … it’s being driven at a very large scale,” he said.
The city recently held a Bangkok City Hall.
“There was a time when we had a significant advantage in many of these markets because of the local competitive landscape…the situation in most of our markets is very different today.”
But Citi’s global platform — the bank does business in more than 160 countries — has tremendous value in institutional banking and wealth management, Mr. Babbage said.
“I think people understand now that we’re really focused on growing our business, our institutional and wealth businesses in Asia,” he said.
“It was not about reducing our ambitions in Asia in any way. It was about shifting the focus of our resources, including our people and capital, because we have something special to offer.”
Citi plans to add 3,000 new jobs to its institutional business in Asia and an additional 2,300 jobs to its wealth management unit over the next few years.
A global perspective with local insight is especially important for companies in today’s rapidly changing and complex economic environment.
“If you’re trying to grow your business, whether it’s a multinational or a small and medium-sized company trying to grow globally in some form, you really must need advice and support to grow where you need it,” said Mr. said Babbage.
“You can only get by with a bank that can say: ‘From our point of view, it really makes sense to invest here. This is where you should consider setting up your build if you want to be flexible. This is where you can diversify your supply chain, this is where you can diversify your distribution.” We are able to do what most others cannot.”
Mr. Babbage acknowledged that a strategic priority for Citi’s bankers is to look at customer needs more holistically and determine how to evaluate the bank and its network.
“Our business is most successful when it’s part of a larger relationship,” he said.
“Customers don’t want to be sold – they want to be supported. And they want to be supported by people they know have a long-term interest at heart and who will support them even if they don’t have it. “