Tue, Aug 31, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Citigroup celebrates four decades of serving Taiwan

FINANCE At a ceremony yesterday, company officials said they hope to increase the group's customer base and did not rule out merging with or buying local banks

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Citigroup Inc, the world's largest financial services company, yesterday celebrated its 40th anniversary in Taiwan. Company officials said the firm is looking forward to devoting another 40 years to the nation with customer-oriented products.

"Citigroup is relatively young here, but we've become one of the largest, most successful and vibrant businesses in the region," Robert Morse, CEO of Citigroup's global corporate investment and banking group in the Asia-Pacific region, said during a ceremony in Taipei.

Citigroup opened its first CitiBank in Taiwan in 1964, and has now become the largest foreign financial institution in the country, with 11 branches and 3,200 employees. It is also one of the top five banks in terms of profitability.

On behalf of the group, Marge Magner, chairwoman and CEO of Citigroup's global consumer group, donated NT$40 million toward the nation's financial education in the next four years.

Magner told reporters that Taiwan is an important market for Citigroup, and that their business here has outperformed expectations for the last couple years.

For example, she said, Citigroup's consumer business in the nation has grown 20 percent over the last several years.

Remarking on government plans to turn the nation into an Asian financial hub, Magner said Taiwan is an excellent place in terms of market performance, open-market mechanisms and flexible policies and measures.

When talking about strategies in this market, Magner said the group hopes to build on its current customer-oriented approach and increase its customer base.

She said the company has not ruled out the possibility of merging or acquiring banks here like it did with KorAm Bank, a South Korean bank -- despite the fact that its partnership with Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控) did not go well.

As for its plans in China, Magner said that due to the vast size and complexity of the market, Citigroup tends to learn from local banks via strategic alliances.

Last year Citigroup formed a joint venture with Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (上海浦東銀行) to enter China's emerging credit card market.

When asked how the bank will differentiate itself from other banks that tend to emulate its products and services, Magner said the company will continue launching innovative products that cater to customers' needs. And it will not shy away from its competitors' challenges.

"We embrace competition ... it is always good for customers and us," she said.

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