Citigroup chief sees Thai leadership role in ASEAN

5_citi3Southeast Asia is a dynamic region with considerable opportunities for growth especially since the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and Thailand ‘s role in the region is important to its future performance, according to the chief executive officer of global banking giant Citigroup who visited Thailand last week and said his company was committed to investing in the Kingdom.

“Thailand has a leadership role to play in the AEC, and is an important market for us in ASEAN, attaching significant investment and trade flows from our global clients,’’ said Michael Corbat, who has led the banking group since 2012, and was on a working trip to several countries in Asia.

The 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) joined together to launch the AEC at the end of the last year. Under its provisions, barriers against trade, investment, services and the movement of labor have been and are being stripped away to create a free trade and investment area with a single market of over 625 million people and gross domestic product of over $2.5 trillion.

“ASEAN is a dynamic region that presents many opportunities,” along with the rest of Asia, which has the highest regional growth worldwide, Corbat said. He added the “the region’s rising economic and political influence puts it at the heart of [the] global trends” that form the basis of Citigroup’s strategy: globalization, urbanization and digitization.

Urbanization in particular was a theme that Corbat stressed. “We are increasingly emphasizing our presence in cities, including here in Bangkok. We have a strategy to focus on on the world’s top cities where economists estimate that as much as two-thirds of future growth will be generated … digitization is created and incubated in urban centers even as it transforms cities into evermore sophisticated hubs of business activity, like here in Bangkok.”

Citigroup, which has a presence in 160 countries, first established itself in Thailand in 1967 as a member of the Thai Commercial Credit Union. The first full service Citibank branch opened in Bangkok in 1985. Today, the bank has 2,500 employees in Thailand, serves clients in government and multinational corporations as well as Thai corporate and consumer clients.

“In Thailand, our strategy is make sure we continue to support our multinational corporate clients and help local companies grow globally, supporting the champions of tomorrow. Citi’s consumer banking and wealth management are also market leaders in Thailand,” Corbat said.

“We allocate financial resources to where we can get the best returns, including some opportunities here in Thailand. I am excited by the prospects for further growth that we see in this region, and remain committed to invest further in Asia and Thailand,’’ he said.