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South Asia: Best International Bank in the Region for BRI 2020

Citi

In many ways this was a breakout year for Citi and its relationships with the Belt and Road Initiative. Under the watch of Beibei Li, head of banking and origination for Belt and Road, the US lender figured out how to use its vast international network to serve clients in China that are keen to up their investments across the region.

Citi established its inaugural South Asia China desk, manned by three dedicated Mandarin speakers. It hosted a number of BRI-themed events for investors. In August 2019, Citi’s entire Pakistan corporate banking team decamped to China to meet with several leading state-run banks, agencies and enterprises.

Its Bangladesh team hit the road later in the year to take part in a Citi-sponsored roadshow that visited Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. And in September, the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka travelled from Colombo to the Chinese capital to host an event that included more than 30 corporates and several one-on-one meetings with senior government officials.

The roadshows and the events bore fruit. During the Sri Lanka roadshow, Citi helped to finalize a deal for a client, a Chinese telecommunications operator that wanted to expand its operations in the island. The bank is providing cash-management and forex solutions, non-resident cash accounts denominated in dollars and Sri Lankan rupees, and local operating accounts. Citi Sri Lanka is also acting as the mainland firm’s chief payments bank.

There will be more to do in the future, once Bangladesh becomes an integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and Pakistan pushes on with the building of vital infrastructure.

Citi was one of four lenders – along with Habib Bank, Citic Bank and China Development Bank – chosen to underwrite Pakistan’s inaugural sovereign panda bond, which was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but is now tipped for completion in the second half of 2020.