Citigroup’s CEO Jane Fraser vowed to expand the US banking giant’s business in China during her first visit to the country as the company chief this week.
Fraser held a meeting with the head of China’s new financial regulator on Monday, the National Financial Regulatory Administration (NFRA) said in a statement on Wednesday.
Fraser’s pledge comes even as most CEOs visiting China this year have remained reluctant to publicly express their enthusiasm in growing business in the country, in an effort to tread a fine line between showing commitment to China and not antagonising the United States.
International companies are finding it harder to operate in China amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. Furthermore, China’s recent expansion of its data security laws has also complicated the ability of foreign companies to operate in the world’s second largest economy.
US venture capital giant Sequoia announced plans on Tuesday to spin off its Chinese business, among other changes as it navigates economic and geopolitical challenges.
Confident in China’s growth
Fraser and accompanying executives said they are “fully confident in China’s economic and financial growth”.
Citi “will play to its strength and continue to expand its business in China” they said, according to the NFRA statement.
Fraser also held meetings with Citi’s staff and clients, which include some of the largest US multinational companies with a presence in China, a Citi spokesperson said.
This was Fraser’s first trip to China since taking up the CEO role in March 2021. It follows a visit by JPMorgan’s chief Jamie Dimon last week, as well as other global financial executives’ visits in March.
Fraser was also the first foreign executive to meet the financial regulator’s chief Li Yunze since he assumed the role in May. The NFRA oversees China’s multi-trillion dollar financial industry, excluding the securities sector.
China’s FDI push
During their meeting, Li told Fraser that China will open up its financial sector further.
Li’s comment follows Beijing’s push to attract more foreign capital.
Municipal governments and business officials in China have been scrambling to attract foreign direct investments (FDI) since late last year as they race to hit growth and employment targets.
Citi currently offers corporate and institutional banking, global markets, wealth businesses and other banking services in China.
The bank is also in the process of applying to set up a securities brokerage in China.
The US lender started winding down its retail banking business in China last December due to a global strategy shift, a move set to impact about 1,200 local staff.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena