A woman at the top of an investment bank is still a rarity. Kristine Braden, managing director of Citi in Europe and CEO of the firm’s Germany-based broker, is one of the pioneers paving the way to which they will reach. With a career of more than 22 years in the entity and after having held positions of maximum responsibility in Switzerland, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Egypt, among other countries, her last mission was to be the director of the counselor’s cabinet. Citi delegate at the planetary level, Mike Corbat. “I am extremely proud of the culture of diversity and inclusion that Citi promotes,” she says. Installed in Frankfurt just when Covid-19 broke out and after doing an enormous job there, it answers the questions of Five days through a questionnaire.
He pilots the broker that provides service to the European Union after dispensing with, due to Brexit, the one that was based in London. What will the final break with the UK look like?
I want to hope that an agreement is still possible. But given that the situation remains uncertain, Citi has based its planning on a scenario in which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a final agreement or a transition period.
What consequences would a rough Brexit have?
London will remain a key financial center, regardless of the bottom line, because the UK is an important business center in its own right, as well as serving the rest of the world. But we will certainly see a reconfiguration of trade flows and foreign direct investment, both to the UK and to the EU. We look beyond Brexit to the possible opportunities that this situation will represent for our clients in both jurisdictions. From a cultural and geographical perspective, we have deep roots in Europe. For example, in Spain, Belgium and Italy we have been operating for more than 100 years.
Will there be more business movements from the UK to continental Europe?
We already have a relevant presence on the continent, with around 14,000 employees serving our customers in Europe. We have planned to add more than 200 new positions in several key markets, in a combination of staff transfers and new employee onboarding.
Cross-border bank mergers will depend primarily on regulatory frameworks
What will be the structure of Citi in the EU after the exit of the United Kingdom?
After Brexit, we will essentially operate from two vehicles: our bank, Citibank Europe, whose headquarters are in Dublin, and our investment firm or broker, Citigroup Global Markets Europe, with headquarters in Frankfurt. Our staff consists of some 14,000 people in 23 countries, including Norway and Switzerland. We have also expanded our presence in key capitals such as Madrid, Paris, Dublin, Luxembourg, Milan and Amsterdam, so we are well positioned to serve our clients. We were prepared last March and we are fully prepared for January 1st.
Has there been a problem with the creation of the bank in Ireland and the transfer of the broker to Germany?
Not fortunately. We established the headquarters of our European bank in Dublin before the Brexit referendum took place, and it is seamlessly integrated into our European network of 23 countries. Our investment company in Frankfurt is fully operational and we are preparing to be under the supervision of the European Central Bank in the future. We have already carried out operations for our clients and we expect flows to increase substantially in the periods before and after January 1, 2021.
From that key date, what will be the growth plans in Europe?
I believe the greatest growth opportunities are in our corporate and investment banking and capital markets businesses, and in our foreign trade and treasury solutions. In both cases, they provide services to the main companies and financial institutions. Private banking and commercial banking also have unique opportunities to grow their penetration and market share in the region. After a very solid 2020 for the markets, we expect volumes to normalize in 2021; however, overall, we continue to invest to enhance our capabilities.
We have expanded our presence in Madrid, Paris, Dublin, Luxembourg, Milan and Amsterdam
Will there be more changes in Spain, in addition to the transfer of its core of private banking from southern Europe to Madrid, How did CincoDías publish on March 16?
Spain is an important market for us in Europe. We are one of the leading banks in investment and corporate banking, capital markets, private banking and transactional banking for large Spanish and multinational companies, as well as one of the main banks in helping to raise financing for the country.
How has the bank dealt with Covid-19 with its employees and clients?
I am extremely impressed by the resilience of all our staff, not only in Europe, but also around the world. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 200,000 employees have adopted telecommuting, and that has involved a huge effort for the operations and technology teams. Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and safety of our employees. We also focus on our clients and assist them, both in their immediate liquidity needs and in advising them on their long-term strategic corporate decisions.
What has been Citi’s role in the markets during the pandemic?
In March, we reopened the European corporate bond market, with an offer for European companies, Engie and Unilever. Our head of corporate debt capital markets conducted that transaction from his kitchen table! Another iconic operation, in this case in Spain, was the advice of Telefónica on its operation in the United Kingdom, which has been the largest operation of the year, and which was successfully closed at the height of the pandemic. We were also very active in the syndicated loan sector for European clients, participating in 13 of the 14 loans signed in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the first quarter.
In Spain, we have the first major banking merger with Bankia-CaixaBank, pending approval at the meeting. And after the break between BBVA and Sabadell, the negotiations between Unicaja and Liberbank are ongoing. Will there be more operations of this type in Europe?
Increasing difficulties we face – such as Covid-19 – tougher regulatory requirements and pressure to maintain cost efficiency and profitability are conditions that are precipitating consolidation in the industry. Our perspective is that there will be an increase in consolidation at the national level, but cross-border consolidation processes will depend primarily on regulatory frameworks.