Citi taps wealthy family clients to boost private bank

Thu May 2, 2013 1:42pm EDT
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By Dinesh Nair

DUBAI (Reuters) - Citigroup Inc (C.N: Quote), one of the world's largest banks, is betting on wealthy Middle Eastern family firms who are in expansion mode to boost its private bank business, senior executives said.

Citi's family office unit is part of the private bank business which manages over $250 billion in assets and serves over a third of the world's billionaires.

Citi first moved into the market for family offices - mini financial institutions set up by rich families to manage their affairs - in 2010 when it set up a unit to cater to them. In March this year the bank appointed Anthony Habis, a managing director at its institutional clients group business, to head the family office coverage in the region.

Many of the families own businesses which are corporate banking clients of the group. The families themselves have now started to diversify away into sophisticated asset classes and have become more institutional in their operations.

A key market for Citi's family unit is the Middle East, home to some of the world's oldest family businesses like Dubai's Al-Futtaim Group and Saudi Arabia's Olayan Group, who controls lucrative businesses such as oil and gas and automobiles.

"What we are seeing is that the old money has become more progressive and more institutional in the thinking and there is a big push to build out the capabilities," Habis said in an interview.

"You are seeing some of the largest family offices setting up in Geneva, London and New York which wasn't the case earlier. They are being smarter with the money they spend," said Habis, who took up the new role in March.

Industry-wide assets under management for single-family offices stood at about $1.2 trillion in September 2011, while multi-family funds had assets of $777 billion in December 2012, according to a study by Boston-based Cerulli Associates.   Continued...

A Citibank branch is seen in Washington January 19, 2010.REUTERS/Jim Young