Company Profiles

EXCLUSIVE: Citi Private Bank's Client Acquisitions Are Strong, Clients Value Safe Direction

Tom Burroughes Group Editor June 16, 2023

EXCLUSIVE: Citi Private Bank's Client Acquisitions Are Strong, Clients Value Safe Direction

This publication recently sat down with the global head of Citi Private Bank to ask about strategy, the general flow of results, and how the firm positions itself in uncertain times.

Citi Private Bank has logged a 70 per cent rise in new client acquisitions in the first quarter of 2023 compared with a year ago. That follows a strong gain in 2022, the US firm told this news service recently, as it discussed how it intends to stay on the front foot.

“Many of the clients we are dealing with have global challenges and have a presence in a number of countries. It is a global network, and with a global set of opportunities,” Ida Liu, global head, Citi Private Bank said in her firm’s offices in Canary Wharf, London.

With Citigroup exiting consumer banking across 14 markets to redeploy resources in areas including wealth management, the winds appear to be set fair for Liu’s part of the group.

This news service spoke to Liu at a time when the banking world has been rocked by the demise and state-backed rescues of Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank in the US, and that of Credit Suisse in Switzerland. In the latter case, it is a particularly significant private bank and wealth management house – and its takeover by UBS changes the landscape. Some clients may be considering diversifying.

“Clients want to diversify and don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket,” Liu said.

“They [clients] view us as a very steady, global systemic and safe bank with a very safe balance sheet and diverse sources of revenue streams around the world,” Liu continued.

Liu has been the global head of Citi Private Bank since April 2021. Prior to her current role, she was the North America private banking head for more than two years. Holding a variety of senior positions, Liu has been at the US banking firm since 2007 and she’s not the only prominent female leader at Citigroup, of course. Jane Fraser became CEO of the bank a month before Liu took on her current role, and Fraser is the first female chief executive in Citigroup’s history. Fraser has been changing the structure and focus of a firm that prides itself on its size and breadth. As Liu said in the interview, this is a lender with an on-the-ground presence in 95 countries. As far as the private bank is concerned, it has 52 offices in 20 countries.

“We are the only private bank that can serve clients around the world seamlessly,” Liu continued. 

Family mindset
Liu said that since taking the role, she’s changed the focus of the private bank from looking at “the individual” to the “family,” arguing that in most cases, the family dimension is crucial as clients build and plan.

“There’s a huge opportunity for us,” she said.

Citigroup, like some other bulge-bracket banks, offers services to family offices – a rapidly growing market. In Singapore, for instance, hundreds of family offices have been launched in recent years.

They need support services, access to bank balance sheets, technology, and investment expertise, particularly at the smaller end of the spectrum.

One trend Liu noted is that private companies today prefer to take family office capital rather than from other sources, seeing it as a more stable channel. This is particularly significant given the secular shift towards privately held companies in the past two decades. Tighter credit conditions amidst the SVB saga in the US, for example, mean that family offices are more likely to be tapped for capital. 

Liu knows that the current market cycle is difficult for all banks, given the recent rises of interest rates, shifts in market cycles and valuations. “It is a dislocated market at the moment,” she said.

“We think this is a great opportunity for us to put our best foot forward to lead on advice. Clients need that more than ever,” Liu added.

To view the most recent financial results from Citigroup, click here.

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