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Time for Citi to deliver in Asia

In Asia Pacific, Citi’s corporate and investment bank is starting to punch its weight as a broad restructuring, a shift in strategy and much soul-searching begin to bear fruit. Can it establish itself at the top of the investment banking pile?

Stephen Bird can wax long and lyrical about many things. Over lunch in a 50th-floor dining room at Citi’s Hong Kong headquarters overlooking Victoria Bay, the bank’s Asia chief executive converses on everything from the prospects for Apple in China to great UK companies, from gingerbread men to Mitt Romney’s sincerity problem and from Citi four years ago to Citi now.

On the latter he is resolutely bullish and on the subject of Citi’s corporate and investment bank in Asia Pacific, led by Farhan Faruqui, Bird is unequivocal.

"Given our client relationships and the investments we’ve made in staffing, technology and platform, there is no reason why we should not be top three across all three investment banking categories year in year out," he says.

It is a statement that underlines how far Citi has come in the region since the dog days of the financial crisis in 2008. It also suggests that the time for excuses is gone. Rather like for a second-term president, it will be increasingly difficult for Citi to blame the mistakes of the past for any future failings in the region.

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