Citi sees 10 percent net new money growth near term in Asia wealth business

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[January 20, 2017]  By Sumeet Chatterjee

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Citigroup said a focus on rich young Asians and new products has helped accelerate net new money growth at its Asia-Pacific consumer wealth business in 2016 to about 10 percent, and a similar annual growth is expected over the next few years.

A Citigroup office is seen at Canary Wharf in London, Britain May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Anand Selvakesari, Citi's Asia-Pacific head for consumer banking, told Reuters that growth in net new money, a key measure of profitability of the wealth business, improved in 2016 from around mid-single digit levels in the last four to five years.

The bank has expanded its digital offerings to tap more young clientele, and has also launched new products, Selvakesari said in an interview.

He did not disclose net new money dollar figures. Private bankers and wealth managers usually are guarded in giving out numbers of any kind because of client privacy concerns and competitive reasons.

Asia has emerged as the main battleground for global wealth managers, with higher economic growth, rapidly rising wages and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem producing rich clients at a pace faster than the western world.

That trend helped Citi's regional wealth business add 8-12 percent new customers last year, the executive said.

In Asia, the Citi wealth business, as part of its consumer banking unit headed by Selvakesari, taps people with investable assets of between $50,000 and $10 million. Those with more than $10 million are clients of the bank's private banking unit.

Citigroup's top three wealth markets in Asia by revenue are Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. The bank's other fast-growing markets in the region include China, India, South Korea and Australia.

"There is continuous wealth generation happening - a growing emerging affluent segment. At the top of the pyramid, wealth continues to grow in these big markets," Selvakesari said.

"The potential is there for double-digit growth given the demographics in these markets."

In 2016, Asia-Pacific posted a rise of 4.5 percent in total household wealth to $80 trillion, as per Credit Suisse Research Institute's annual global wealth report, versus 2 percent growth in North America and a negative 1.7 percent in Europe.

Wealth per adult in Asia-Pacific increased by 2.9 percent in 2016, the fastest pace among all regions, it said, adding wealth in Asia-Pacific will likely grow by 6.3 percent annually, reaching $109 trillion by 2021.

Citi posted on Wednesday a 7 percent rise in its global net income to $3.57 billion. [nL4N1F846S]

The bank's Asia consumer banking revenue rose 4 percent from a year ago to $1.7 billion, helped by growth in the wealth management and cards businesses, it said in a presentation. The bank does not break down regional wealth management revenue.

Citi has tied up with e-commerce companies in Asia such as ride-hailing firm Grab and online retailer Lazada Group to boost its credit card business in the region.

Selvakesari said one in four credit cards for the bank are now acquired through digital platforms such as China's mobile social media network WeChat and Japan's Line instant messaging service, with plans to ramp it up to 50 percent in the next three years.

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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