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Citi’s retail retreat reaches the US border

The decision to sell Citibanamex ends the ‘Mexican exception’.

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Citi’s announcement that it will sell Citibanamex – its large consumer business in Mexico – is confirmation that there will be no exception to CEO Jane Fraser’s corporate-focused international strategy.

The US firm’s approach to its non-US business has long been clear; indeed, it was first deployed by Fraser in Latin America when she was CEO of the region for Citi. The bank then sold off its retail operations around the region – with sales in Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru, followed by Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala and El Salvador, and latterly the larger businesses in Argentina and Brazil. The January 2018 disposal of its Colombian retail bank left Citi with just the to-be-rebranded Citibanamex as a regional consumer banking business.

Meanwhile, Citi focused on its corporate and investment banking group (Institutional Clients Group or ICG). In 2018, speaking to Euromoney, Fraser outlined the rationalization that would become her pitch for Citi’s top job: the number of local ICG ‘active clients’ had been slashed by around 80% between 2012 and 2017; from 8,800 to 1,500. At the same time, the list of global subsidiaries in the region rose just slightly – up 5% to around 6,000 – and the bank was able to maintain regional revenues at $4.2