Mr Dennis Hussey, Citi Country Officer in Vietnam, spoke with VET's Minh Tien about its successful 20-year journey in Vietnam and what the future holds.
Congratulations to Citibank Vietnam on its 20th anniversary. Many people consider Citi’s success in Vietnam a symbol of the normalisation of relations between Vietnam and the US. What are your thoughts?
Thank you for your congratulations! And I would like to extend our congratulations to Vietnam Economic Times on its 20th anniversary.
Looking back on our history in Vietnam, Citi set up a representative office in 1993 and officially became the first US financial institution to open a branch in Vietnam in 1994 when former President Bill Clinton ended the US trade embargo against Vietnam. I believe the branch opening in 1994 itself was a tangible symbol of the success of the normalisation of Vietnam-US relations.
Since then, Citi has been playing an essential role in boosting bilateral ties between the two countries by facilitating the development of many aspects of financial markets here and by helping our clients meet their financial needs. Recall that when we first started working in Vietnam, many banking products were unfamiliar. We were first to bring electronic banking, syndicated loans, and hedging tools, as well as innovative project financing. This early work required close cooperation and partnership with the State Bank of Vietnam, local banks, and other partners. Those partnerships have grown and prospered over the years!
What have been Citi’s key achievements since its arrival in Vietnam 20 years ago?
Vietnam has experienced enormous growth over the past two decades. As the market evolves, Citi has been innovative in bringing in new ideas and solutions to Vietnam. As I mentioned before, we were the first to pilot electronic banking in Vietnam in the 1990s and we have constantly updated our electronic banking platform to remain best in class. In parallel, we developed a very strong partner network with local banks to allow us to receive and make domestic payments nationwide. This was innovative when first introduced in the late 1990s.
Serving as a trusted financial partner to the country’s leading corporations and State-owned enterprises, Citi has driven the largest and most successful capital market transactions in Vietnam. We were one of the very first foreign banks in the market and, hence, we have also been actively involved in infrastructure finance in Vietnam. The first ever international syndicated loan was completed in 1997 for Vinacoal (now Vinacomin). Then in 2003, Citi arranged a US Exim’s term loan worth $335 million to the national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines to upgrade its fleet with three new Boeing 777 aircraft. Additionally, we have also been quite engaged in Export Credit Agency (ECA) financing deals, of which we facilitated the largest ECA-backed financing for PetroVietnam Transportation in its construction of the Nhon Trach II Power Plant in southern Dong Nai province in 2010, and Citi was presented the “Deal of the Year” award by Trade Finance. More recently, Citi in 2013 acted as an arranger for PetroVietnam to borrow $1 billion to finance the 1,200MW Thai Binh II Power Plant.
Leaving aside financial markets, we have also played a role in contributing to society in Vietnam. The Citi Foundation has funded over $2 million to multiple projects, and our focus on microfinance and financial education has been strongly recognised. In addition, our staff have participated in annual community day events and personally volunteered their time.
Throughout the last 20 years, Citibank has expanded its leading role in institutional businesses while establishing a prominent position in consumer banking with a full suite of banking products and services. Across all categories, Citi has experienced marked growth while maintaining product leadership and remarkable client excellence.
What are Citi’s strengths in corporate banking and advisory services?
Our strengths in corporate banking and advisory services are demonstrated in the three categories of global network, human resources, and technology. In terms of global network, with a strong presence in over a hundred countries and territories for over 200 years, we are one of the very few to operate a global network that allows us to deliver pioneering initiatives and solutions to Vietnam and serve as a trusted partner of foreign investors in the country. Thanks to our global expertise, we can deliver financial products and services relatively similar to multinational clients when they enter Vietnam. Furthermore, they also can benefit from our local expertise as well as our long-standing relationships with the largest local banks. We have successfully built a diverse customer base with multinational corporations from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, America and Europe.
Another major strength that we have is delivering innovative solutions to our clients. Vietnam is a country with complex regulatory changes that can be challenging at times. In order to be able to provide quality banking solutions we often have to work closely with the State Bank and regulators in launching new products and services. Though many banks might have ideas, Citi has a strong capability to turn those ideas into reality. We offer a wide range of services from a simple cash management solution to complex structured finance ideas.
In addition, Citi persists in affirming its industry leader position in terms of technology by deepening its reform and innovation. Citi has always been the pioneer in introducing world class banking experiences. Most recently, we unveiled Citi Supplier Finance - a global pioneering supply chain finance initiative targeting top-tier multinational corporations and their preferred suppliers.
Looking back over the last 20 years, are you satisfied with what you have achieved? What are your expectations for the future?
We are quite pleased with the progress we have made over the past 20 years. From a small representative office with some ten staff we have firmly grown into a leading financial institution with over 600 employees. While we have seen positive growth in financial results we are also pleased with the achievements and recognition gained.
Looking forward to the future, Vietnam is a country with tremendous opportunities and potential. If you look at its physical location, human resources, and the trading alliances it has already and the potential partners it will have with EU trade agreement and the TPP, growth in Vietnam will accelerate in the years ahead.
Over the next few years there may well be challenges, too. However, Citibank will be here, as in the last 20 years, and we will work harder and harder to bring relevant financial products and services into the market. I am very optimistic about what we can do to continue to grow and develop.