When Citi appointed Munir Nanji as its Global Subsidiaries Group (GSG) Head for Asia Pacific, it was handing responsibility over to one of its most important client segments, in one of the most important and high growth markets in the world. How has this Treasury Today regular commentator adapted to the pressure? We caught up with him in Singapore.
If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well, goes the old adage. Citi, banking over 90% of the Fortune 500, including many of Asia’s corporate champions, clearly understands this. In Asia, its GSG business supports the subsidiaries of its multinational clients around the world. With intra-Asia flows increasing in volume and relevance as global and regional business continues to expand their footprint in the region, Asia’s growing trade corridors – amongst some of the fastest-growing trade routes in the world – need to be placed in a safe pair of hands.
Munir Nanji took on the role of GSG Head for Asia Pacific knowing that his clients are seeking growth opportunities and in need of ideas and solutions that work. He is of course vastly experienced, bringing 25 years of international banking experience to the role, having worked out of Kenya, Nigeria, Poland, Italy, Romania, the UK and Hong Kong before taking on his new Singapore-based duties. Prior to taking up his new role he was Citi’s Regional Sales and Marketing Head, Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS), for Asia Pacific. With previous leadership positions globally in corporate banking, product management, relationship, risk management and board membership roles under his belt, Citi is clearly placing their faith in Nanji’s vast pool of experience.
Dealing with the decision-making subsidiaries of corporates entering the region from predominantly Europe and North America, the role encompasses a broad suite of products and services, including of course core areas such as foreign exchange, structured finance, capital markets and investment banking. It is partly this broad-based banking opportunity, having previously focused on cash and trade products, that appealed to Nanji, he says.
Another reason was the chance to expand his personal reach into Citi’s global network – something which it sees as one of its core strengths. Being able to add value for clients, providing a secure financial services framework for their development, is a satisfying outlet for Nanji’s innate commercial sensibilities.
Of course, there is much appeal in the sheer dynamism of the Asian market, especially as emerging market companies are increasingly seeking a slice of action. And with ‘local’ names from Korea or Japan, for example, also stepping up their activities, Asia is a very large part of the regional business wallet and Citi is there for them, says Nanji. “If there is a client growing in a region or country which is very important to them, we make sure we cover their needs.” In this respect, ownership is important to him, by which he means the ability to analyse and take on board client needs, be able to direct them to the right products and services and in effect champion these offerings across the organisation. This, he says, gives him “a better sense of being in the centre of all conversations and doing right by the customer”.
An ambitious view
In terms of aims and ambitions for his new role, Nanji has stepped into a world where Citi’s book is already very strong. He says he is not taking on something that needs to be restructured. However, his goal is to be more efficient in terms of cross-sell, extending up the value chain towards debt capital market and equity products, for example. “It is one of the aims to grow our wallet in the higher-value product space.” This, he feels, can in part be achieved by leveraging the depth and breadth of conversation with the client, bringing “a lot of energy” to table.
With a long tail of strategically large and important clients to work with, Citi has a number of projects under way, looking at ways in which it can it can best serve wallet-ownership in Asia. By assessing everything – from the most appropriate relationship management, to the right product and service offering – Nanji believes he can “uplift the value these customers are receiving”.
Where Asia is one small part of a larger global operation for some clients, a lighter touch approach may be called for, but nonetheless Nanji is adamant that the relationship must be very effective in meeting their needs. “I am working at both ends of the spectrum, uplifting the high end, and making the relationship more efficient and seamless for our smaller clients.”
With Citi’s regional corporate banking business in the next couple of years expected to deliver up to 40% of revenues, what Nanji is tackling is clearly a huge undertaking. He is on track, he says, noting that it is now the fastest growing division. “My aim is to make sure it grows even faster, and we do that by better understanding all our clients’ needs and having the right resources in the right place at the right time.”