Sharma will continue to be based in Singapore, reporting to Sallie Krawcheck, chairman and CEO of the bank's wealth management division. He will now manage a business that spans five continents and employs more than 2,500 professionals. In 2006, it accounted for $1.4 billion in revenue, on which it posted a net income of $234 million. Krawcheck herself was appointed to this job in January 2007. Commenting on Krawcheck's appointment, Charles Prince, Citigroup chairman and CEO, said she was taking over the division ôat a time when one of our most important strategic priorities is to grow this business".
Citigroup earlier operated its Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific and Middle East businesses as three separate entities. Now that the whole world excluding North America is combined under Sharma, his mandate is to build and expand the franchise. Specifically, opportunities in markets such as China, India, Korea, Brazil, Russia and others from central and eastern Europe which the bank terms largely untapped in terms of their wealth management potential will be his focus.
Sharma says: "I believe that in the future our business distribution will be spread more evenly among many countries. The long-term vision is for the international business to rank alongside the US business in terms of size and capabilities.ö
Singapore is the fastest-growing private banking market in the world, showing a 20% year-on-year increase in assets under management. Singapore is grooming itself into the Switzerland of the east and introducing banking legislation in the country conducive to this aim. It is estimated that for both Credit Suisse and UBS, Singapore has the largest headcount of private bankers outside Switzerland. Barclays, HSBC, Merrill Lynch and others are all beefing up staffing in Singapore to cater to the explosion of millionaires in the region. It would seem Citigroup is putting in place a structure it believes is best suited to prepare itself for the battle for market share in this arena, which lies ahead.