Indonesia as an investment grade country presents an exciting opportunity for portfolio and strategic investors in the capital markets: fixed income and equity markets. We want the domestic market to expand and deepen.
ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: You have a longstanding career with Citibank in Asia and Europe. Can you give us an introduction about yourself and what is the role of Citibank in Indonesia?
BATARA SIANTURI: This is my 30th year and my third Country Head position within Citibank – from Hungary to the Philippines and now, Indonesia. It has been an exciting professional experience since as a global bank, Citi offers global career opportunities.
This year, we are celebrating our 50th anniversary in Indonesia, and our tagline is “50 years of dedication for Indonesia”. Our legacy in Indonesia will be remembered on two aspects: talent and innovation.
On talent, we have built a brand of bankers, “Citibankers”, who are regarded as the industry’s benchmark. At Citi we value talent diversity. We source talents from various nationalities with diverse educational backgrounds, who can adapt and remain agile to the speed of change. We also have a strong Citi Alumni organization in the country. This strengthens our Citi Culture.
Innovation is also a part of the Citi DNA – we take pride in the innovations we have introduced to Indonesia for the past 50 years such as credit cards, touchscreen ATMs, trade and transaction banking solutions and many more. We strive to continue our efforts to elevate the banking industry to the next level of excellence.
ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: The advancements in technology has made fintech a popular topic in today’s age. How does Citibank promote innovation in this segment?
BATARA SIANTURI: At Citi, we conceptualize “digital is mobile” and our aim is to bring banking to the palm of our customer’s hand. We want to be forward compatible with the trend in digitization. Citi has two platforms in delivering mobile banking: Citi Mobile in consumer banking and CitiDirect in institutional banking. We are very focused on delivering our mobile banking capabilities.
ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Islamic Banking has grown rapidly in value and the geographical reach has become an important and integral part of the financial systems in many countries. How does Citi identify opportunities in exploring Islamic financial products in Indonesia?
BATARA SIANTURI: We have been a great supporter of the Sukuk Bonds of the Republic of Indonesia. In fact, early this year, the Republic of Indonesia succeeded in issuing the Green Sukuk Bond, the first in the world Green Bonds for a sovereign. The launch of Indonesia’s first sovereign Green Sukuk bonds is not just an extension of this growth journey but also a historic milestone for the country.
ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Recently we met with the chairman of OJK – Mr Wimboh Santoso, and one of their objectives was to deepen the capital markets. This happens to be in line with Citi’s focus and involvement on the capital markets. From the Citi perspective, how do you see the opportunities to make this a reality?
BATARA SIANTURI: Indonesia as an investment grade country presents an exciting opportunity for portfolio and strategic investors in the capital markets: fixed income and equity markets. We want the domestic market to expand and deepen. In our consumer banking for example, the wealth management business continues to offer a broad offering of investment products to our affluent customers. This ranges from money market funds, balanced funds, fixed income funds, equity funds as well as local bonds and global bonds. In institutional banking, we launched account operator for our securities and services business which is a first step to many more initiative that will grow Indonesia’s equity markets.
ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: The ease of doing business has significantly improved in Indonesia. Yet, as the international investor community is looking into possible investment destinations, there is still some degree of hesitation. How can Citi’s role welcome more FDI into Indonesia?
BATARA SIANTURI: Citi is probably the only true global bank, which does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Our strength is our global footprint and the global transaction banking of Citi facilitates payments through our banking ‘pipes’. Citi is the natural bank for multinational corporations.
In Asia, Asian MNCs are increasingly investing in other Asian countries, or we call it “Asia-to-Asia”. Should Asian MNCs expand into Indonesia or Indonesian corporates expanding outside Indonesia, Citi has the network in Asia to support their growth and connectivity.
ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: The outlook for 2018 in Indonesia is projected at 5.3% GDP growth. How do you see the banking sector moving forward?
BATARA SIANTURI: Indonesia is a $ 1 trillion economy, with investment grade rating and significant improvement in ease of doing business. It is also a country with huge domestic demand and population. We expect the real sector to grow even faster as Indonesia continues to build infrastructure that will create economic multiplier. Finance or banking follows real sector. As the real sector grows, the banking sector will also grow. The banking sector is solid in terms of liquidity, capital, and portfolio quality. With huge opportunity in increasing banking penetration for the population, we can only see that this sector will grow even further.
ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What would be your message of confidence for our 2 million readers at the Washington Post, and why should foreign businesses collaborate with local companies to invest in Indonesia?
BATARA SIANTURI: With over 250 million people and 17,000 islands, investors should be excited to explore many opportunities in various sectors in the country. Among the ASEAN countries, Indonesia has one of the largest young and vibrant demographics. We believe that investors can look forward to many long-term strategic investments in the hope of creating more export-oriented Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) for Indonesia. This will make Indonesia a strategic part of the ecosystem of global trade flows. These exported orientated FDIs will be great for Indonesia’s growth, improve current account, trade accounts, and balance of payments. This is a great win-win for Indonesia and its strategic investors.