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Citigroup wants more senior women at its markets unit in Asia

It has a long way to go as it currently has an 80:20 split in favour of men at the managing director level

Hong Kong

CITIGROUP wants to achieve parity between male and female managing directors at its markets business in Asia within three to five years, joining banks worldwide in stepping up efforts to close a longstanding gender gap.

The New York-based bank has a long way to go. Though women make up about half the 60,000 Citigroup workforce across all divisions in Asia-Pacific, the regional markets business currently has an 80:20 split in favour of men at the managing director level, according to Aditi Mahadevan, the unit's head of human resources.

The plan to move to parity within five years "not only makes us more in tune with our clients but also it has been proved to be better for performance", Ms Mahadevan said. "It leads to better decisions and more balanced thinking."

Banks around the world are under growing pressure to improve pay and career prospects for women.

The initiative in Asia follows Citigroup's pledge earlier this year to measure, publish and take steps to close the gaps between what it pays men and women in three countries and for US minorities.

Goldman Sachs Group said last week that it aims to have women make up half its workforce in the future, starting with an even split in its class of college graduates by 2021.

As well as promoting and hiring more women into executive roles, Citigroup hopes to achieve the gender equality target by reducing churn among new mothers. In November, it introduced a programme in Hong Kong and Singapore for working mothers in the markets division, which offers longer maternity leave, flexible hours and coaching.

Ms Mahadevan said turnover among new mothers was about 25 per cent last year. The bank hopes its new initiatives will reduce that rate to less than 10 per cent in three years, she added.

Citigroup currently has about 130 male and female managing directors in the Asia-Pacific markets and securities business, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Ms Mahadevan declined to comment on the figure.

Citigroup's markets division includes the primary and secondary business in equities and fixed income, as well as sales and client trading across fixed income, commodities and currencies, and equities.

Revenue in its Asia-Pacific institutional clients group, to which markets and securities services is one of the largest contributors, reached US$7.1 billion in 2017, according to a company filing.

"Trading floors are hard. You have so much testosterone floating around in one particular place," said Nick Marsh, chief executive officer of Hong Kong-based headhunting firm Meraki Executive Search & Consulting. "Whereas if you have a balance, you'll have wholly different thought processes going in." BLOOMBERG