Saturday, 6 February 2010

Citi to open 14 branches in one month

Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Standard

US-based Citi Group is expanding in the Philippines, with the opening of 14 more branches of its thrift banking unit over the next four weeks.

“We will increase from 22 to 36 branches [of Citi Savings Inc.] in four weeks,” Sanjiv Vohra, country head for Citi Philippines, told reporters in a news briefing at Ascott Makati Thursday.

Vohra, who did not cite the investment cost of the the expansion, said it had to open the new Citi Savings branches simultaneously this month to preserve the licenses granted by Bangko Sentral. The licenses for the thrift bank operations are set to expire in March.

Vohra said the plan to open 14 savings bank branches, mostly in Metro Manila, had been in the pipeline for about a year.

“We have been working for it for over a year now. We have been working behind the scene,” he said.

Vohra also disclosed that starting tomorrow, the bank’s Citigold wealth management service would be available at its Citi Savings branch in Ermita, Manila. The service, which used to be exclusive to Citi commercial bank branches, will be rolled out in other branches of the savings bank in the coming months.

“We would like to expand the presence of Citigold to our Citi Savings branches,” he said.

Citi has six commercial bank branches and 22 savings bank branches.

Its Citigold product is a wealth management service provided to affluent clients with a minimum of P4 million in investment.

Citi remains optimistic about the credit market in the Philippines, which it sees expanding 8 percent to 10 percent this year.

“We expect credit card spending to go up specially with the growth in economy, election spending and remittance flow,” Vohra said.

The Citi Group has over a million credit card holders in the Philippines.

Haren Shah, director and senior investment strategist of Citi Asia Pacific, said the global economy was expected to recover this year with a 3.3-percent growth, led by the strong rebound in Asia, excluding Japan.

Inflation is expected to remain subdued in 2010, although emerging markets are more vulnerable to inflationary pressures that may require tighter monetary policy.

Citi strategists expect the United States and the United Kingdom policy rates to begin rising in late 2010 while European and Japanese policy rates are seen to remain stable throughout the year.

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