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Citigroup opens Vietnam retail bank as wealth expands   2009-10-13 - Bloomberg

Citigroup Inc., the third-largest US bank by assets, opened its first retail banking branch in Vietnam to take advantage of increasing wealth in the US$90 billion Southeast Asian economy.

The branch in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s biggest city, will offer deposit and remittance services to retail customers, Citigroup said in an e-mailed press release Tuesday. The outlet will have 16 account managers and seven banking service staff, according to the statement.

“You can see the amount of wealth that’s been created here, after a decade of growth that’s been in the 7 to 8 percent range,” Brett Krause, managing director for Citibank N.A. Vietnam, said in an interview Tuesday from Ho Chi Minh City, where he’s based. “Domestic demand, even though this crisis, has been one of the most important things.”

Vietnam’s economic expansion has averaged 7.5 percent since the start of the decade, before slowing to 6.2 percent last year, the slowest since 1999. Gross domestic product increased 5.8 percent in the third quarter, from the same period last year and from 4.5 percent in the second quarter.

New York-based Citigroup plans to gain customers from its competitors by developing business with Vietnamese living overseas, also known as Viet Kieu, many of whom left the country at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest bank, Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., and Standard Chartered Plc run retail banks in Vietnam.

“Citibank is at its roots an American bank, and the ties and connections with Vietnam and the US are very strong, very important, and growing,” Krause said. “We have a natural link with the Viet Kieu for the flows they bring into Vietnam.”

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