Reuters, citing Gonzalo Luchetti, Citi’s head of consumer banking for Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, reported the aim is to boost Citigroup’s customer base in Singapore by around 13 percent by engaging in in partnerships with digital companies. “Today we have about 16 million customers in Asia, and our aspiration is to increase this by about two million in the next few years through partnerships alone,” Luchetti told Reuters. In May Citigroup launched a co-branded credit card with Paytm, the Indian digital payments company, and with Qantas a couple of years back.
For Grab, it’s the latest effort to enter financial services, an industry Grab expects growth from. The ride-hailing startup said earlier in 2019 that it was in the process of landing the licenses to lend in Southeast Asia. “The Citi-Grab credit card is a natural next step as we create more value for our digital-first, always in GrabPay users,” Huey Tyng Ooi, managing director of GrabPay Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines, said in a statement.
The co-branded credit cards are being issued starting Tuesday (June 11) in the Philippines. The cards will be issued in Thailand later in 2019 and then launched in other Southeast Asian markets, noted the report.
While Citigroup is garnering attention for its deal with Grab, it’s not the only bank that is trying to align with digital companies to reach a broader audience. Luchetti told Reuters that it’s not the only bank that sees its customers spending more time on their phones, but that is how the bank executes a partnership that ultimately matters. “Thirty years ago, if you wanted to be relevant to clients, you needed to have as many branches as you could. Today … people spend hours every day in these virtual cities, and the equivalent of having a branch in every corner is being able to provide your services within these digital ecosystems,” Luchetti said. Citi has shuttered hundreds of branches in Asia over the past few years.