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Citigroup to expand workforce in RP

Posted November 24, 2008

WHILE AMERICAN financial giant Citigroup is streamlining across the globe, it expects to create about 1,000 new jobs and triple its workforce in the Philippines next year, picking the country as a regional hub for business process outsourcing (BPO).

"Citi is repositioning in Asia-Pacific but we remain focused on growth. As we review our operations and where we can be more efficient, something which we have been doing even before the downtrend in the global financial markets, we in the Philippines are optimistic that instead of reducing head count, we will be growing," Citibank country business manager Mark Jones said.

Jones said Citibank had a staff of about 500 in the country and would likely hire an additional 1,000 in the coming year as part of plans to build processing centers and expand its domestic banking business.

"We expect the Philippines to be a preferred location for regional hubs or center of excellence because of superior skilled workers and attractive labor costs," Jones said.

"From call centers to financial reporting and service centers, there's a whole lot of activity moving to the Philippines," he said.

Citigroup announced in New York last week plans to cut more than 50,000 jobs or about 14 percent of its workforce to weather the lingering global financial market turbulence.

Jones said the bank obviously could not keep all of its existing staff in the Philippines, where the bank was investing heavily in systems and processes to make operations more efficient.

"Inevitably, if you go through change as we upgrade our systems, as systems get automated, that happens," he said when asked about potential lay-offs.

But overall, he said the bank would hire more people in the Philippines as Citigroup's global restructuring would require the expansion of regional BPO hubs.

"We are repositioning globally, doing what we have to do now that the markets are not functioning normally," Jones said.

Asked about the bank's outlook for next year, he said: "It's going to be a tough year globally. In the Philippines, it doesn't feel it's safe yet but we're certainly preparing for it."

"We haven't really seen it impact the consumer but we're preparing for it," he added.

Wall Street was filled with speculation on Friday that the New York-based Citigroup may now consider selling part or all of its shares to hurdle the global financial turmoil.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 23, 2008
by Doris Dumlao

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