“In line with the ongoing global recovery, Indonesian banking looks brighter as more Indonesians want to grow their wealth and protect their family,” Jonathan Larsen, Citibank’s head of consumer banking and global cards for Asia Pacific, said during a recent visit to Jakarta.
With the recovery in the macroeconomic environment in Indonesia, Larsen remarked that Indonesians, particularly those in the growing middle class, had potential for financial success.
“More than 7,000 SMEs operating in Tanah Abang regularly conduct transactions for either domestic or international markets. They can altogether generate transactions of Rp 1 trillion or US$100 million per day. ”
“Depending on an individual’s risk appetite and investment needs, banks in Indonesia have come up with an array of financial and wealth management products, ranging from savings and time deposits to mutual funds, bonds and insurance.”
Larsen also believes that today’s fast-paced world encourages and even demands sophisticated banking services.
“The technology we have today allows us to make services available much faster. The presence of mobile phone and Internet banking really revolutionize the banking experience.”
He recalled the traditional bank experience where customers had to spend time waiting for approval or standing in line in order to execute a transaction at a teller’s counter. Most banks take time to do over-the-counter transactions, but technology has made it possible to conduct major banking transactions at the click of a button.
In his current post, Larsen is responsible for all of Citi’s regional consumer products and customer segments under the Citibank branding. He also has joint oversight of Citi’s local commercial banking business covering small and medium enterprises in Asia Pacific.
“Indonesia is a key market for Citibank, particularly for the country’s small and medium business segment. We are really looking forward to partnering with them as they have the potential to take advantage of many opportunities that arise with economic growth,” he asserted.
There are around 3.9 million commercial businesses categorized as small and medium enterprises (SMEs). As the number continues to increase, Larsen puts much hope in Citibank’s newest branch in Tanah Abang, Jakarta.
“More than 7,000 SMEs operating in Tanah Abang regularly conduct transactions for either domestic or international markets. They can altogether generate transactions of Rp 1 trillion or US$100 million per day,” Larsen remarked, adding that the Tanah Abang branch offers business-focused products and services such as import-export facilities, financing and trade solutions.
At present, Citibank has 21 branch offices, 71 loan centers and 105 ATMs in Indonesia’s six major cities of Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Medan, Semarang and Denpasar.
Within Asia Pacific, Citibank currently has more than 31 million customer accounts and 15 million credit cardholders.
Among global banks, Citibank has the widest distribution network in the region, which includes more than 600 retail branches and over 2,000 ATMs.
“And our Citigold banking serves more than half a million of the region’s affluent consumers,” Larsen said.
Having first joined Citibank in 1998, Larsen admitted to gaining much of his leadership savvy throughout his entire career with Citibank.
“I was in the learning curve. Despite all the obstacles, I kept hitting the road.” It was under his leadership that Citi was named the Best Bank in Singapore by Euromoney in 2007 and 2009.
Also a member of Citi’s Asia Pacific Executive Committee, which manages Citi’s overall business in the region, Larsen surely keeps his agenda loaded with routine activities. This is not to mention his frequent business trips.
“When I travel, be it on business or pleasure, I always try to enjoy sightseeing. I love photography and try not to miss any great panorama whenever I land in a new place,” he said.
Cities in France, Italy and China are among his favorite destinations, but when asked where he considered was the best place to live, Larsen replied, “It’s hard to say which one because every city has its own character. I like Melbourne as my hometown. I currently live in Hong Kong. It’s a very beautiful city, indeed. Singapore is a remarkable city as I lived there for 14 years. It has outstanding infrastructure, great entertainment and dining venues.”
Notwithstanding his frequent travel and workload, Larsen makes sure to spend some quality time at home. He listens to classical music and likes playing the clarinet at his leisure.
Married and blessed with a 10-year-old son, weekends – if not spent traveling – mean doing fun activities with his family, ranging from watching movies to culinary journeys.
“Life should be in balance, though I personally love my job,” Larsen said.
His professional enthusiasm is very clear. “There are some possibilities of climbing higher with Citibank, but I’m not aiming at any particular position. In any career, you should do what you love doing.”
By Aulia Rachmat Sungkar. Published in The Jakarta Post on May 19, 2010.