Citi’s Asean head Michael Zink retires

Citi's head of Southeast Asia and Singapore country officer will be returning to the US once a successor is found. He looks back on his career with FinanceAsia.

Citi’s veteran head of Southeast Asia, Michael Zink, is retiring after a 28-year stint at the bank and returning to the United States.

Zink’s decision to retire and return to the US was announced in an email to the bank’s staff on Friday from Francisco Aristeguieta, chief executive officer for Asia, which was seen by FinanceAsia.

Asean is Citi's largest business within the region and Singapore generates annual revenues of close to $2 billion. Citi in Asean had already exceeded the three key metrics that global CEO Michael Corbat set for the group - return on assets, return on tangible common equity and operating efficiency - the day he announced them. Citi is profitable in each of the countries in Asean where it has a presence.

During Zink’s long career at Citi he has been based with his family in 10 countries across four continents. "We left New York the same week [former US president] Ronald Reagan left office; it's time to go home," Zink told FinanceAsia in an interview. "I feel I am leaving a clean shop, the regulators are happy, the businesses are profitable and the talent pipeline is full." 

“Michael has never shied away from challenging roles and has always championed productive and innovative change,” Aristeguieta said in the note. He also praised Zink for recruiting and developing “a generation of leaders at Citi.”

Other internal Citi staffers told FinanceAsia that Zink was well-liked by his team and colleagues and that he had helped the bank improve and deepen its business in Singapore and across Southeast Asia.

Zink said he had no other job lined up but may look to contribute to youth development projects.

Citi has about 10,000 staff in Singapore, which makes it the largest banking employer in the country. When Zink started his tenure in 2010, it had 8,000 staff. Citi hires on average about 200 graduates each year. 

Zink said the aspect of the job he was most proud of was that he could look around the world at the people he has helped recruit and develop, such as Natasha Ansell, whom he brought on board when Citi opened up shop in Russia in 1993; last year Zink made her country head of Vietnam.

Broad career

Zink, 57-years old, was named Citi’s head of Asean in 2012 as part of a management streamlining effort.

The new role saw the chief country officers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Brunei, Guam, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh all report into him.

"I like being in the country, with the clients, with the regulators on the ground and that is what I find exciting. I would not enjoy being in headquarters," said Zink. 

The Asean role also supplemented Zink's existing job as chief country officer for Singapore, a role that he assumed in 2010 and meant he oversaw Citi's institutional clients, cards, consumer banking, and wealth management efforts in the country.  

"I've been in Singapore six years as country head and that is about the natural time to start thinking of a new challenge," said Zink.

Before that, from 2006 to 2010, Zink was president and executive director of Guangdong Development Bank, a bank partly owned by Citi and rebranded China Guangfa Bank. He was one of the first US heads of a bank in China.

"It was a very challenging period, and probably one of the hardest jobs I've ever had," said Zink. "Citi learned a lot about operating in China and we made a contribution to turning the bank around." 

The year before Citi invested as part of a consortium, Gunagfa lost about $300 million. After the first year of the consortium running the bank it made roughly $700 million. Guangfa operates in more than 40 cities in China. 

Previously, Zink was senior executive vice president and executive director of Citibank Korea, having already held various positions in Indonesia, Africa, Russia, and Australia.

Zink will return to the US with his wife Betsy and family. Aristeguieta said he would remain for a period to help facilitate a transition as the US bank seeks a new regional head and country officer for Singapore. A spokesman for Citi said a successor would be announced in due course. 

"I want to go on my own terms, in my own time while I still have some music left in me to write another chapter," said Zink.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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