Citigroup is looking to obtain a banking license in Saudi Arabia

A senior Citigroup executive said the bank would like to obtain a banking license in Saudi Arabia to boost its activities in the Kingdom by expanding trade finance and treasury solutions.

Citi obtained a license to operate in the Saudi capital markets in 2017, which allowed him to return to the kingdom in 2018 after an absence of 13 years.

The bank advised Aramco on its $29.4 billion listing in 2019, which was the world’s largest initial public offering, as well as several sovereign and commercial bond deals.

“We have achieved significant growth during this period, and we are still very interested in making more investments locally in the market,” said Ebro Bakan, director of Emerging Markets Operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Citigroup, on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia.

“As our clients invest more in many potential growth sectors, we are interested in expanding our capabilities and services locally over time by seeking a banking license,” Pakan added.

Citigroup’s business model is to serve multinational corporations globally, as well as bring local market opportunities to global investors.

“When we work with these global companies, particularly in liquidity management, trade finance and other treasury solutions, it becomes really important to be a deposit-taking institution that has local payment and collection capabilities,” Pakan said.

Western financial institutions have expanded in Saudi Arabia since the government unveiled plans to privatize state assets and adopted reforms as part of an economic strategy to reduce dependence on oil.

Bakan said that Citigroup plans to hire more employees in Saudi Arabia, and may double or triple the number of its team members over the next few years.

She also added that the United Arab Emirates will be one of the bank’s global centers for wealth management, focusing on the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and emerging markets.

In other parts of emerging markets, Bakan said Citigroup is “closely watching markets such as Ghana in Africa and Uzbekistan in Central Asia, as the markets develop and continue to attract more multinationals.”