Citi in Hong Kong: Foreign devils or client first champions?
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Citi in Hong Kong: Foreign devils or client first champions?

When Euromoney’s intrepid snapper visited the Citi branch in question just before the Chinese New Year, the protest consisted of a solitary masked individual wearing a sheet daubed with the slogan ‘Citi Bank is a crook’. A satisfied recipient, perhaps, of the ‘client first’ service philosophy that Citi’s Hong Kong consumer banking chief executive, Weber Lo, spoke of after Pandit at the new branch opening ceremony?

Vikram Pandit, Citigroup’s chief executive, visited Hong Kong to much fanfare on February 3 to open six new branches of the bank. As reported in a gushing press release from Citi, its leader spoke from the new Cameron Road branch about Citi’s "more than 108-year history" in Hong Kong and the exciting new products clients could look forward to. The release does not relate whether Pandit ventured to Citi’s branch in Central, where he would have found evidence of some (presumably former) Citi clients’ rather more ambivalent attitude to his firm. Hong Kong residents have become used to the semi-permanent protests outside Citi (and, it must be said, other banks) that have been going on for more than a year. Painted flags draped outside the branch scream ‘Devil Bank’, ‘Citi? Crook!’ and other such emotive slogans, while former protests have included displays of photographs of Citibank executives crudely altered with red ink to give them horns and blood dripping from their mouths.

The protests centre on a controversy that dates back to the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Customers of these banks were sold structured notes backed by Lehman Brothers known as minibonds.

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