Paulus Sutisna: Increasing Corporate Clients and Boosting Growth

IT is no secret that Citibank is the school of bankers. Its “graduates” hold important positions at many other banks. But not Paulus Sutisna, who has worked for Citibank for 20 years. Paulus has never considered moving to another bank. “As long as I feel comfortable here with various challenging tasks I would not be interested in leaving Citibank,” said Paulus, who is the bank’s director/multinational group head.  

Born in Bandung in 1964, he started his career at Citibank in January 1989, after passing the bank’s entry test at Citibank Sydney, Australia, for the position of management associate for Citibank, N.A., Indonesia branch (Citibank), Jakarta.

“I successfully completed the executive training program by passing all required exams at the end of rotational assignments in all units [operation and marketing] within the corporate bank,” he explained.  

Paulus never dreamed he would work at a bank. After graduating from St. Aloysius High School, Bandung, in 1983, he continued his studies at St. George Technical College, Sydney, Australia, for one year. He was among the top 5 percent students in the Australian state of New South Wales (score 412). Then he proceeded to the University of Technology Sydney, from which he graduated with honors, earning a bachelor of applied science from the School of Computing Science in 1988.  

Before he graduated, from January until December 1987, he worked as a programmer in an industrial apprenticeship program at CSR Ltd., one of the top five companies in Australia that produces sugar and building materials. His educational background and apprenticeship was related with IT, but he later applied to Citibank.

“Honestly, the salary was not bad. In fact, it was higher than at other companies,” he said with a laugh.  

Paulus acknowledges that Citibank is quite well known in Indonesia. Citibank already had a presence in the country before independence, that is, in 1918, when it was called The International Banking Corporation and located in Batavia and Surabaya. It was closed at the end of 1920 and re-established in Jakarta in 1968 with its current name, Citibank.  

Today, Citi, as it is more popularly known, has transformed into one of the most vital financial institutions in Indonesia with clients divided into three categories: corporate, consumer and private banking. “I have concentrated on corporate clients since my early days at Citibank,” said Paulus.  

Paulus, who loves bicycling, has held various positions, including senior relationship manager for two years at Citibank Amsterdam. Over there he learned a lot about corporate banking as he had to deal with major clients. So, when he returned from Amsterdam in 2002, he was entrusted with the position of Global Transactional Services group head in Jakarta.  

From 2005 until the present, Paulus has been the bank’s director/multinational group head, and he is the first Indonesian to hold such a position. His duty is to handle multinational company relationships and he reports directly to the country manager and regional multinational head in Singapore.  

As a consumer bank, Citibank is not a new player. The bank’s Global Consumer Group operates 20 branches, 71 Citifinancial loan centers and 103 ATMs located in major Indonesian cities. Citibank is one of the largest customer payment networks in Indonesia as it has more than 14,000 payment counters.  

But what many people do not know is that corporate clients contribute almost half of Citibank’s revenue. “In the past four years, corporate revenue growth has been about 300 percent,” said Paulus, adding that Citibank Indonesia has achieved the highest growth among Citibank worldwide.  

It is indeed surprising since 2009 was a tough year due to the global financial crisis. The secret behind the success here is that Paulus, who heads five units and a team of 18 relationship managers, selects reliable clients. He said a client does not have to be a major one, but it should have a global network.

“Most of our clients are indeed multinationals, but we do not underestimate the medium and small ones,” said Paulus, who also loves golf.  

What is interesting is that Citibank does not rely only on interest for its revenue, but also on fee based income, which is the important core of banking mediation. For retail consumers as well as corporate clients, Citibank makes available not only conventional loans but also other customized banking products to suit a client’s needs, from investment to derivative market or products. “The key is trust that is certainly accompanied with quick and accurate solutions,” said Paulus.  

Citibank, or Citi Indonesia’s Institutional Clients Group to be more precise, currently has four offices in the country that are located in Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and Medan. The core business includes treasury, cash management, trade and security services, corporate and structured finance as well as investment management. “We provide comprehensive financial solutions,” Paulus emphasized.  

The challenge facing Paulus lies not only in maintaining his corporate clients but also in boosting growth in this sector concerning both the number of clients and volume of each client’s business.  

Paulus, who has two children, aged 16 and 12, plans to develop more attractive and innovative products for corporate clients. This is the challenge that makes Paulus feel comfortable working for so many years at Citibank.

“There are always opportunities to learn and keep learning. The basis of management is to solve problems, make targets and formulate strategies to achieve the set target,” he concluded. (Burhan Abe )   

The Jakarta Post, January 20, 2010

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