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Citi's Asean head and S'pore chief to retire

After nearly 30 years of postings with the bank, Michael Zink decides to return to the US

A KEY SUCCESS: Citi lauded Mr Zink for 'driving the development of leadership talent (here) and supporting the development of the local core'.


CITI Singapore country officer and Asean head Michael Zink will retire after nearly three decades at the bank - including some six years in Singapore - after a tour of duty spanning 10 countries across four continents.

His successor has not been appointed yet. Mr Zink, an American citizen, plans to return to the US, according to a staff memo seen by The Business Times.

Mr Zink, 57, became Citi's Singapore country officer in April 2010, and head of Citi's business in Asean in 2012.

Prior to that, Mr Zink ran Guangdong Development Bank (in which Citi has a stake), and from 2004 to 2006, headed the corporate and investment banking business in Citibank Korea. He was also Citi's Indonesia country officer, and held senior roles in Africa, Russia and Australia.

His career "underlines the value we place on seniors who embrace mobility in their careers and personal lives", a staff memo from Francisco Aristeguieta, chief executive of Citigroup Asia-Pacific, said.

"I wish to thank Michael and his family, especially his wife Betsy, for their commitment and significant contribution to Citi." Mr Zink and his wife, whom he first met as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, have four children.

In the memo, Mr Aristeguieta also lauded Mr Zink for his ability to recruit and develop "a generation of leaders" at Citi.

Likewise, a media statement from Citi said one of Mr Zink's key successes was "driving the development of leadership talent within Citi Singapore and particularly supporting the development of the local core".

In an interview with BT in 2014, he said Citi had heeded the call by the government here for companies to give Singaporeans a fair chance to rise up the ranks alongside their global peers.

"Singaporeans should run Singapore. The Koreans should run Korea, and the Indians should run India," Mr Zink told BT then, noting this has also been part of Citi's culture. "If you walk the halls, and you want to find Singaporeans, you'll trip over them," he added. "If policies shift, we just adapt; we don't resist."

Citi is among the top foreign banks from which local lenders tend to poach senior bankers. Both DBS Group chief executive Piyush Gupta and former OCBC CEO David Connor were from Citi. The US bank has said it rolls out training programmes for high-flying bankers, which raises the qualifications of its bankers.

One former Citibanker also remarked that, following the global financial crisis, opportunities to move to local lenders became attractive when Citi's shares tanked during the crisis, wiping out stock options held by senior management. Morale in Asia was also affected with pressure at the group level, although regional growth continued, he observed.

Still, there are many Singaporeans at Citi holding senior positions here and in regional markets. They include Citibank Singapore CEO Han Kwee Juan; Lee Lung Nien, head of the bank's Malaysian unit; and Citi Private Bank global market manager for Asean Jessica Poh.

The new chief in Singapore - an important hub for Citi - will have to navigate through a weaker environment for banking, amid fears over rising risk from the plunge in oil prices, and slowing Asian growth.