SINGAPORE: Amid geopolitical tensions and ongoing wars and despite a slowing economy in China, Asia remains a bright spot for the world, Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser said on Friday (Oct 20).
The firm moves US$4 trillion (S$5.5 trillion) – equivalent to the gross domestic product of Germany – every day for 5,000 multinational companies, and much of that flow and activity is in Asia, she said.
“Asia is just the bright spot of the world. There are so many different geographies where the changing dynamics are playing into the longer-term flavour and benefit here, be it what we see in Indonesia and Thailand and Vietnam,” she added.
While China is facing challenges at the moment, the advances the country has made technologically are “extraordinary”, she noted.
There are also several growth opportunities in Singapore, where there are “a lot of different new lanes” coming through, she told CNA. Ms Fraser was in Singapore for a Citigroup board meeting.
“Entrepreneurial clients in this part of the world blow my mind, every time I see them. They’re so innovative, they’re so creative, and that’s going to be enormous wealth creation, but also economic growth creation in the medium- to long-term,” she said.
“I think you can tell I’m an optimist, particularly in this part of the world,” she said.
Outlining the economic situation in other markets, Ms Fraser said that consumer and corporate clients have been in good health in the United States, even as the country heads into a possible recession next year.
Europe has longer-term structural challenges in the labour market and energy prices, she noted.
As she drives Citigroup through its most radical transformation in decades, including simplifying the organisation and cutting jobs, Ms Fraser said it was time to make sure the firm is positioned for the growth that will happen, particularly in Asia.
BEING SELECTIVE OF CLIENTS
During the wide-ranging interview, Ms Fraser also spoke about how the Wall Street giant maintains its regulatory and risk management framework in an era when large banks can sometimes attract bad actors.
Citigroup, which operates in 96 countries, is careful in its selection of clients, she said.
“We put a lot of rigour, and the benefit of being on the ground is that you’re not doing it just (based) off data. You have a good understanding,” she said.
The company has monitoring capabilities to help clients protect against risks or bad actors, via its cyber capabilities and fraud detection, she noted.
“It’s a huge investment that we do, but it does start with being very careful on who we do business with and making sure that we are working with people who are of high reputation and keeping them safe,” Ms Fraser said.