Hong Kong

Citigroup reportedly plans to Expand Operations in Hong Kong, with an Eye on the Greater Bay Area

Citigroup is reportedly planning to recruit between 1,500 and 1,700 people in Hong Kong as it seeks to tap the increasing capital flow between the city and mainland China and rising affluence in the Greater Bay Area.

The American bank plans to make the hires across its business, filling most of the positions this year, according to Angel Ng Yin-yee, the CEO of Citi Hong Kong and Macau. Citi also plans to increase its technology spending by 28 per cent as it expands its digital offerings, she said, according to a news report by South China Morning Post, written by Chad Bray.

Angel Ng Yin-yee, CEO, Hong Kong and Macau, Citi, said: “The bulk of it will be our frontline people. We’re also cautious we need to have the right product development, digital channel development people and compliance people, so we are also ramping up the middle office and the back office.”

In 2020, the bank’s consumer business in Hong Kong recorded a 44 per cent increase in net new money, with credit card and new bank account clients utilising digital channels at a much higher rate than before against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, Ng said.

“When people cannot travel and they cannot do other things, they have their mind on wealth management, on how I am going to get better in terms of managing my finances. We actually saw quite a good level of client activity in both the consumer side and the institutional side,” reports Ng.

On the investment banking side, the lender helped clients raise about USD40 billion in equity and debt deals in Hong Kong last year.

Citi’s move to expand its Hong Kong operations comes as other lenders are also hiring in the region in anticipation of a continued ‘homecoming’ of US-listed Chinese firms seeking secondary listings in Hong Kong and opportunities to serve the mainland’s wealthy as China further opens its financial markets.

HSBC said in February that it plans to invest USD3.5 billion and hire more than 5,000 people in its wealth management business in Asia over the next five years as it targets high net worth and ultra-high net worth clients.

Credit Suisse reportedly plans to triple its headcount in China over the next three years as it moves to take full control of its mainland securities joint venture and further expand its business in China, its CEO Thomas Gottstein said at the China Development Forum on March 20.

Even as banks increase their presence on the ground in the mainland, Hong Kong will remain an important international financial centre as China – and its rising affluence – continues to open up to the rest of the world, Ng said.

“The talent pool in Hong Kong is built over a long period of time. Not just having bodies, but having the knowledge and the expertise we have in the financial industry. That gives us the confidence as well to be continuously navigating through all of the opportunity, as well as the risk,” she said.

One big opportunity for banks in Hong Kong is the upcoming Wealth Connect scheme, which will allow banks in the city to market wealth management products directly to mainland clients. It follows similar connect schemes for stocks and bonds.

“This is a very creative infrastructure. It’s very innovative. Nobody has tried it before,” Ng said. “I don’t think it will be a ‘Big Bang’ opportunity to start with. It will be a pilot. It will be slow. It will be gradual. I think it opens us up into a bigger market – talking about multiples of what we have in Hong Kong – in the coming years.”