Top Citigroup executive says Hong Kong is back to normal, as bank opens new wealth management centre in city
- Senior Citi executive says it is ‘business as usual’ in city as lender looks to expand now that pandemic has receded
- Citi opens new global wealth management centre in Hong Kong as it seeks to capture US$150 billion of new client money in Asia by 2025
Citigroup opened its first global wealth management centre in Hong Kong on Tuesday, with a senior executive saying it is “business as usual” in the city as the US lender looks to expand now that the pandemic has receded.
New York-based Anand Selvakesari, CEO of personal banking and wealth management at Citigroup, made the comments as he and other senior executives attended the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit hosted by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority from Tuesday to Thursday, the biggest financial event in the city in three years.
“I’m staying at the Four Seasons Hotel and as I walked in on Sunday I saw that the [adjacent] IFC Mall was very crowded,” Selvakesari told the Post. “People were wearing masks but the restaurants were full and lots of people were shopping.”
He added that it was pretty much “business as usual” in the city and apart from the conspicuous mask-wearing, it was much the same “as being in New York”.
After attending an M+ museum dinner on Tuesday night, Selvakesari will speak at a panel session on Wednesday, replacing the company’s CEO Jane Fraser who was unable to attend after catching Covid.
Selvakesari said the bank had never stopped investing in talent and technology globally amid the pandemic but that investment in physical infrastructure had been a challenge.
“Now that the Covid pandemic is over, we can have this physical infrastructure investment. We are very proud to have an infrastructure like the Global Wealth Centre [in Hong Kong],” Selvakesari said after hosting the opening ceremony in the city.
The 10,000 square foot-plus centre is located at the luxury K11 Atelier Victoria Dockside shopping location in Tsim Sha Tsui, and will serve Citigroup’s high net worth customers with assets over HK$8 million (US$1 million).
The expansion plan is part of the lender’s drive to achieve a target set last year of capturing US$150 billion of new client money from wealthy customers in Asia by 2025, building on an asset pile of close to US$200 billion now.
The bank sees Hong Kong and Singapore as key markets to expand in Asia, with the region accounting for 34 per cent of Citi’s global wealth management business, which had reported revenue of US$7.5 billion in 2021. Even amid the pandemic, the bank was able to attract almost 14,000 new global wealth clients.
“Singapore is the gateway to Southeast Asia wealth. And Hong Kong is the gateway for all the North Asia wealth, especially China,” said Angel Ng, head of Citi global wealth in Asia.
She said business had bounced back in the third quarter with net new money flows reaching US$3.7 billion for the Citigold business in Asia during the July to September quarter. Citigold requires clients to have at least HK$1.5 million of liquid assets. The bank also saw a 25 per cent increase in credit card spending year-on-year in the third quarter, said Ng.
Citigroup’s rivals HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank have also opened large wealth centres at the same location in Hong Kong, as banks look to capture a bigger share of the Greater Bay Area’s (GBA) wealthy clients.
There are around 80,000 ultra-high-net-worth families, defined as having more than US$30 million in investible assets, in China, of which more than 20 per cent live in the GBA, according to the Hong Kong government.
A cross-border Wealth Management Connect scheme launched in September 2021 allows Citibank and other Hong Kong lenders to sell Hong Kong investment fund products to the residents of GBA cities through their mainland banking partners.