Citi’s Asia Pacific commercial banking arm has set up a China desk in Singapore to meet growing demand from “emerging corporates” for its services across intra-Asia growth corridors.

The new desk is led by Mona Zhang, previously parent account manager for mid corporates in Citi Commercial Bank (CCB) China’s office. Her team is tasked with forging stronger partnerships with China-based clients to support their expansion plans into Singapore as well as the rest of Asean.

CCB serves mid-sized and emerging corporates with revenues of up to US$1bn annually. The business operates across 11 markets in Asia Pacific, including Greater China, Asean, India, Korea and Australia, and contributes around a third of the bank’s global commercial banking revenues.

The bank says that the establishment of its latest China desk underlines the growth that the business continues to see across the China-to-Singapore as well as China-to-Asean corridors. Despite low interest rates and challenges presented by Covid-19, in 2020, CCB more than doubled revenue in the China-to-Singapore corridor, supported by 35% growth in new client acquisition. Momentum in new client acquisition also resulted in a doubling of revenue in the China-to-Asean corridor last year.

“Singapore and the broader Asean region are key markets for growth for expanding Chinese emerging corporates,” says Lin Hsiu-Yi, Citi Commercial Bank Asean and Singapore head. “A majority of these clients set up holding companies in Singapore for their Asean units, with the market serving as a treasury and funding hub. Complemented by Citi’s regional network, the new Singapore-based China desk will enable us to better and more effectively partner with our clients as we support their growth aspirations. The desk will provide specialised support and leverage our capabilities as a full-service bank, connecting clients to Citi’s broader institutional clients group to offer services across banking, FX, cash management, capital markets financing and advisory.”

The bank’s other desks in the region include Korea desks in China, Hong Kong, India and Vietnam; a Greater China desk in Hong Kong; and a China desk in India, the majority of which have recorded positive growth in 2020.

CCB says its Korea desk in Hong Kong saw a doubling of revenue in 2020, while the China desk in India recorded a 50% increase in earnings in the same period. More recently, the Vietnam-based Korea desk was elevated to an Asean desk, supporting Korean clients who are looking at new markets within the broader bloc.

The bank now plans to establish more China desks, but is yet to announce their location.

“Recognising the growth in intra-Asia corridors, including Asean, and the strong presence that China is and will continue to play in the movement of trade flows and client activity, we will continue to expand our Asia desks into new corridors and hire across these desks to support growing client demand. This will include setting up China desks in additional markets and expanding our Singapore-based China desk team,” says Rajat Madhok, Citi Commercial Bank Asia Pacific head.