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UOB keeps most Citi staff after Southeast Asia retail buyout

A United Overseas Bank Ltd. (UOB) logo sits atop the company's building in the central business district (CBD) of Singapore. (Ore Huiying/Bloomberg)
A United Overseas Bank Ltd. (UOB) logo sits atop the company's building in the central business district (CBD) of Singapore. (Ore Huiying/Bloomberg)

By Xiao Zibang

(Bloomberg) — United Overseas Bank Ltd. will keep most of Citigroup Inc.’s employees after buying the US bank’s consumer assets in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

About 90% of Citi’s 5,000 employees in the four countries will transfer to UOB when the last leg of the acquisition completes at the end of this year, according to Jacquelyn Tan, head of the Singapore-based lender’s group personal financial services. First announced in January last year, the S$4.9 billion ($3.7 billion) deal will nearly double UOB’s regional retail clients to about 5.3 million.

The confirmation of the personnel retention is a boost for the region’s banking sector, which is bracing for redundancies from the Credit Suisse Group AG takeover and from the return of some finance sector job cuts globally — which were all but absent during the pandemic — as firms focus on reducing expenses amid an uncertain economic environment.

Tan said UOB was “very, very happy” with the 90% retention level, which she described as high during a press briefing. UOB is already seeing uplift in the three markets of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia where it integrated the Citi units, the lender said in its latest earnings report.

“We complement the local banks and we should be one of the top foreign banks in any of the markets we operate in,” Tan said.

The addition of Citi’s employees roughly doubles the number of UOB’s consumer banking staff in the four Southeast Asian countries, which includes Indonesia, to about 10,000.

Office space review

UOB will take the time to review its office space in the four markets, Tan said.

“Over time, as the leases expire across all the premises, we will start consolidating,” she said. “The key thing is the teams have to sit together.”

UOB’s takeover of Citi’s consumer unit is its first big acquisition in 16 years. While its two other Singapore-based rivals DBS Group Holdings Ltd. and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. grew their presence substantially via acquisitions in Greater China, UOB has been focusing its footprint in Southeast Asia.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.