RETAIL BANKING | Sandra Sendingan, Singapore

Citi banks on unrivalled expertise to service Asia's mobile and international millionaires

Affluent clients in the region can unlock sophisticated and customised investment opportunities in the U.S.

Asia’s high-net worth people are on the move - literally. In the old days, a wealthy person would live in one country and their needs would be domestic. But a new breed of wealthy with multiple houses, businesses, and needs in different countries is the next target for Citi International Personal Bank.

With a focus on the region’s high-net worth clientele, particularly those residing in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, and China, the bank aims to serve affluent clients, who are increasingly travelling, studying abroad, immigrating and looking outward for investment opportunities.

Citi IPB US provides a value proposition that offers access to a wide range of banking and investment products and services available through bank and non-bank affiliates, with the associated benefits of having assets in the US. IPB US. is one of four International Personal Banking hubs - along with Singapore, Hong Kong, and London.

In an exclusive interview with Asian Banking & Finance, Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann, business head of IPB U.S. and Samantha Lee, IPB U.S. Sales and Client Engagement Market Head for Asia, share Citi’s plans to meet the evolving needs of Asia’s wealthy clientele seeking investment opportunities in the U.S.

With China minting two new billionaires on a weekly basis, the ultra-wealthy based in Asia-Pacific are set to be richer than their U.S. counterparts in less than three years, according to a report from PwC and UBS. How is Citi taking advantage of this shift?
Rebecca: With the rapid pace of wealth creation in Asia, IPB U.S. is responding to this shift by attracting new talent to stay as close as possible to clients locally in order to retain, deepen, and acquire high-net worth clientele. To better serve Asia, we have structured our organisation into small sales teams, referred to as “clusters,” united by geographic region. The focus is on executing personalised, market-centric wealth management strategies, and delivering superior client experiences.

Samantha: IPB U.S. helps affluent clients navigate the complexity of the U.S. financial markets in their native languages, such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, and Tagalog. Furthermore, clients are able to open accounts remotely, without traveling to the U.S. Our teams of wealth professionals visit clients in their home countries to design customised solutions based on our clients’ needs.

How does Citi draw on its international expertise and network to service the cross-border wealth management needs of Asia’s super-rich clients?
Rebecca: Whilst we bring investors local expertise, we’re unique in that we’re truly global, serving thousands of high-net worth clients. We leverage Citi’s global presence and footprint, which provides many advantages, such as a robust range of product and service offerings all over the world. When it comes to investing, our financial professionals have access to a dedicated team of experts – from our Investment Lab providing asset class insights and thought leadership to Investment Counselors building customised portfolio solutions for clients.

Another advantage is that, at Citi, we have a Global Investment Committee (GIC), which enhances the potential return of client portfolios by analysing historical market data, economic indicators and other fundamental factors to build projections of risks and returns to deliver, strategic and tactical asset class allocation. Our customised portfolios, based on these analyses, are a critical part of our value proposition.

Samantha: Asian clients are sophisticated and as such, they like to bank in the U.S. because it provides them with access to a variety of products to include in their portfolio asset allocation mix. Clients also appreciate that their U.S. bank deposit accounts are insured by the FDIC.

Rebecca: We offer an extensive set of investment options as part of a robust open-architecture platform, where clients can benefit from traditional and alternative investments, as well as access to a wide range of global markets and securities. Our alternative investments platform includes hedge funds, private equity and real estate funds – products that may not be offered by wealth managers based in Asia.

It hasn’t been a good year for the wealth management business as affluent clients have become more risk averse in response to heightening uncertainties in the global arena. How do you see Asia’s wealth management landscape developing over the next 12 months?
Samantha: As clients seek to minimise financial risk, they tend to opt for U.S. dollar-denominated assets and shift towards more liquid investments, such as a savings
accounts, short-term CDs, and fixed income instruments. These types of products may offer principal protection that can provide stability during turbulent times.

Asian clients are digitally-oriented and financially savvy and we expect that the wealth management landscape will see a greater trend toward digital products and services. Today, our clients markedly prefer the expertise and engagement of a financial advisor when it comes to discussing their goals and concerns. In the long term, however, we are committed to delivering value both through our dedicated financial professionals, as well as with digital solutions that address our clients’ evolving needs.

We are committed to being a leader in digital wealth management by providing superior capabilities and partnerships with key digital platforms to create a client experience that is personalised, frictionless, and relevant to today’s economy.

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