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Citibank focuses on implementing its retail business

5214 afisari
Claudia Ariton
Having recently launched its retail banking segment, Citibank Romania is determined to attract more clients by offering a combination of new technology features, new and renovated branches, and a variety of new services, such as Citibank Online and CitiPhone banking. As Shamir Khaliq, head of Citibank Romania, told Business Arena Magazine in an exclusive interview, "being a global bank, with nearly 200 years of experience, we bring a lot of learning to the Romanian market. For instance, we offer personal loans only in lei and at a fixed interest rate, because we have seen people in other parts of the world lose money due to the exposure to foreign exchange- and interest-rate volatility. In Romania, as a result of the financial crisis, we have been prudent on the loan criteria, such as minimum income and debt burden ratio."
Nevertheless, if Citibank’s clients do encounter trouble paying their installments, “we get back to these clients and restructure the remaining amount, in order to reduce their monthly installments and help them better cope with their debt,” explained Khaliq.
For instance, we offer personal loans only in lei and at a fixed interest rate, because we have seen people in other parts of the world lose money due to the exposure to foreign exchange- and interest-rate volatility. In Romania, as a result of the financial crisis, we have been prudent on the loan criteria, such as minimum income and debt burden ratio.” Nevertheless, if Citibank’s clients do encounter trouble paying their installments, “we get back to these clients and restructure the remaining amount, in order to reduce their monthly installments and help them better cope with their debt,” explained Khaliq.
The bank’s main focus at the moment remains its retail business. Therefore, with the launch of this retail banking option, Citibanks provides its individual clients a range of products, from transactional accounts, such as current accounts, debit and credit cards, to saving products, such as term deposits and saving accounts. Citibank is also offering investment and insurance products by AIG Life. “Before the launch of our retail services we focused mostly on corporate clients, but now we have become a full-service bank which also offers complete services to individuals. Our long-term business strategy includes both companies and individuals,” said Khaliq.
He further added Citibank Romania has invested several million dollars this year in assuring the necessary conditions for the retail business. This covered infrastructure and technology costs, the marketing budget, as well as the implementation costs for products and services. “Our strategy to launch this retail business was put into place in early 2008, before the economic crisis started; it is a long-term strategy and the economic cycles should not significantly change it,” explained Khaliq. “From our perspective, the moment of this launch was a favorable one, because now we can hire the best specialists in the market in order to develop and to offer new opportunities for our clients. Moreover, certainly because at this time other banks in the system are slowing down their activity, we are extending ours and, through this, we are making a difference in the market.”
Launching their retail banking segment was, therefore, an important next step following the introduction of Citibank Romania’s credit card business in late 2008. “This new strategy implied an increased investment in our franchise in Romania,” Khaliq affirmed. In the coming months, the bank, which employs over 400 persons, is planning to diversify the investment opportunities offered to its clients. As well, it will start services and protection programs to support their clients’ long-term financial planning. “At the moment, we have a successful business in the credit cards segment. Until now, clients have been oriented only towards loans, but lately they have started to make use of the advantages of credit cards,” said the bank president.
Despite these innovations, the volume of personal loans has decreased this year compared to the same period in 2008, “mainly due to a more conservative attitude of customers towards loans.” The value of non-performing loans within Citibank Romania’s corporate and consumer portfolio reached 1.82 per cent at the close of 2008.
The bank’s present distribution structure consists of two flagship branches and five retail branches in Bucharest, with branches in large cities outside the capital. Khaliq noted that further expansion of the bank’s branches will be based on customer demand.

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