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Citigroup steps up Western European corporate banking push

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·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The Citigroup Inc logo is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto
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LONDON (Reuters) - Citigroup is expanding its commercial banking operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), looking to take on local banks serving mid-sized companies as part of a wider bid to capitalise on its global presence.

The U.S. bank will initially hire around 25 staff including bankers and risk & control managers this year as it expands its local presence in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal and Italy, Raymond Gatcliffe, head of Citi Commercial Bank in EMEA, told Reuters

That follows on from around 30 hires the bank has already made in Britain in the last year, since Reuters first reported the lender's ambitions to grow in the region.

"The UK commercial bank has seen double digit revenue growth, and has become a very important business for us which has given us confidence to expand further in Europe," Gatcliffe said.

The U.S. bank aims to continue that double-digit revenue growth in Europe over the next few years with yet further hiring, he said, with more as-yet undisclosed markets in the bank's sights.

The aim is to target subsidiaries of big international companies that Citi already banks; mid-sized companies with annual sales from around $100 million to $3 billion; and fast-growing tech companies that are aiming to achieve global scale.

Tech entrepreneurs in particular are impatient to grow internationally at a rate their more traditional peers would never dream of, Gatcliffe said.

"Companies go global in a few years rather than a few decades now, and they want a banking service that's quick, digital and global," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic, far from slowing the U.S. lender's ambitions, has accelerated its investment plans as companies increasingly demand digital services from banks and seek to diversify their revenue streams in multiple markets.

The lender will however face stiff competition from local banks in the markets it is investing in, as well as rivals such as Barclays, which is also hiring in continental Europe, JPMorgan and BNP Paribas.

(Reporting By Lawrence White. Editing by Jane Merriman)