Citigroup overhauls global business, to plough more resources into Singapore

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Citigroup will overhaul its global operations over the coming months, with new chief executive Mike Corbat planning to free up resources in underperforming countries to fund growth elsewhere as part of efforts to boost returns and take advantage of a mass pullback from rivals in some emerging markets.

Some 21 markets where returns and cost levels fall foul of new targets have been earmarked for restructuring, with another 18 slated for "optimisation". The bank will hold steady in 48 countries and plough more resources into a further 20, including Mexico, Singapore, India, Hong Kong and China.

"These days all banks have finite resources," Europe, Middle East and Africa chief Jim Cowles told IFR. "At Citi, we have prioritised countries we operate in, balancing where opportunities lie and where we are best positioned. We are focusing on what we do well and what our clients' needs are in each of our countries."

The US lender hopes the move will boost return-on-equity to above 10 per cent from the 7.9 per cent it posted last year and get cost-income ratios down to the mid-50s. Its securities and banking platform, which missed that target by about 20 basis points last year, will clamp down on headcount and comp to bring costs down.

Mr Cowles, a former global head of equities and global head of equity capital markets, said the global strategy mirrored some of the changes Mr Corbat implemented when he ran the EMEA region.

Mr Corbat took up the group chief executive post last October, and Mr Cowles was appointed to replace him in January.

Those changes helped cement EMEA as the bank's biggest earner within securities and banking, despite the economic turmoil that has subdued activity. EMEA pulled in US$7.5 billion (S$9.36 billion) in revenues last year, the most since 2009, although Mr Cowles says this is still short of his ambitions.

"In Europe, we are focused on helping our clients navigate this difficult period and if we do that well, our market and wallet share figures should take care of themselves," he said.