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Best Bank Awards

Korea's best international bank 2017: Citi


South Korea is a tough place for foreign lenders. The market is big, but dominated by local players and burdened by onerous regulations. Global players have come and gone over the years, most notably HSBC, which pulled out of the retail market in 2013.

But Citi has persevered. The US lender posted net income of Won226.7 billion ($209 million) in the 12 months to the end of September 2017, a year-on-year rise of 93%, on revenues of Won1.18 trillion. It remains a power in onshore investment banking, muscling its way into large transactions that sporadically pepper the capital markets.

Citi topped the equity capital markets rankings in the 12 months to the end of October 2017, according to data from Dealogic, taking part in 11 deals worth a total of $1.86 billion. No foreign bank can compete with the all-round presence of a lender that continues to grow its onshore unsecured lending and trust business.

It may seem counterintuitive to hand an award to a bank that’s shutting down three quarters of its 133 onshore branches. But Citi is sanguine about the closures; its country chief executive and president Park Jin-Hei tells Asiamoney they allow the bank to focus on expanding its digital repertoire, which is spearheaded by an award-winning all-purpose mobile banking app, launched in December 2016.

Besides, 36 new all-purpose financial full-service banking hubs, each employing an average of 85 personnel, will each replace between three and five existing branches. “Every hub will focus far more on wealth management and digital tools, and offer the best possible advice to our clients,” Park says.

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