Citi: Investment banking, Belfast-style
It’s an investment bank right here in Northern Ireland, employing 2,700 people in the thriving Titanic Quarter of Belfast.
Citi has an illustrious international history, and has been enabling progress by putting capital to the best use supporting progress and development for over 200 years.
It was the first bank to roll out ATMs in the late 1970s, as well as supporting key developments in global transportation such as the Panama Canal, which it financed in 1904.
And two years ago, a container ship owned by Citi client COSCO was the first vessel to cross the expanded Panama Canal.
And Citi declares that “we continue to enable progress for our clients across the globe”.
At any one time, Citi in Belfast typically has 150 roles on offer, bringing you into one of the most exciting, dynamic and international careers you could imagine. All without leaving Belfast.
We spoke to three Citi employees - Jamie, Maddi and Kathy - about what they love most about Citi, the opportunities for training and development they’ve had there and why they recommend it as a place to work.
Prepare for your preconceptions to be shattered!
Jamie from Co Fermanagh is fresh out of Ulster University, Jordanstown after a degree in computing technologies, which included a placement with Citi. He’s loving being back and the transition from uni to work has been “very, very easy”. “You were still remembered from placement which I found quite nice.”
Before starting full-time, he did a six-week Grad Academy with Citi - and he enjoyed some team building during a day’s volunteering, chopping down trees in Mount Stewart.
His new IT support job is in TPS - trade processing system production support. “Our usual analogy is that we are firefighters for our applications… we’re dealing with real problems and real money, which is quite scary but really rewarding.”
He loves the international focus of Citi. On a typical day, he’s talking to offices in Singapore, Chennai, London, New York, New Jersey and Mississauga in Canada. “I’m dealing with people worldwide, America, South America, India, China, everywhere - which is great. It’s a challenge but I find it very rewarding as well.
“Citi is global, not just national here or in the UK. It’s a global spectrum across the world, which I find very interesting. That was one of the factors that perked me to try and apply for a placement here when they came into my uni in the first year.
“There’s not many companies in Belfast or especially down in Fermanagh that gives you the opportunity to speak to people with different cultures. That’s what I found so interesting, working with different cultures, being able to understand what they do differently day by day to what I would do.”
He’s loved the opportunities to get out and speak at universities about the opportunities available at Citi. He’s even become an ambassador for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and taught kids how to code.
And the social life is great, he says. “Last week the social committee went bowling and I was paired up with one of the MDs from London. Again, the opportunity to speak to someone on that level was quite surreal.”
Maddi has been working in the finance sector since finishing her A levels. She worked for a financial services company for nine years before joining Citi about 10 years ago. She left to set up her own coaching business, then worked in the voluntary sector and came back to Citi last year. The experience she gained in the voluntary sector is now being put to good use.
“Moving back into Citi and into a role that is much more global, dealing with all sorts of different people, different cultures, different time zones - that sort of exposure to the sort of thing that pushed me outside my comfort zone before have really helped me to settle into Citi and bring a confidence with me that I probably didn’t have first time round.”
Her job as a third party risk manager is to manage the risk Citi incurs by relying on external suppliers to do work.
And there is an important focus on cultural diversity and equality. “We have such a big focus on gender diversity, LGBTQ+ issues and ability. We have a really strong leadership focus on that. Our site head Leigh Mayer is very very keen on anything that’s equality-related. He came to the Pride March this year — Citi had a float at Pride this year.”
She adds: “It really is a place that I would say is really considered as inclusive. I feel like if you come to work in Citi it doesn’t really matter where your background is from, whether that is cultural or your employment history. Obviously there are some roles where you have to have a skills match but you can bring your experience and diversity with you into Citi and it is something that is embraced and welcomed.”
She relishes the global nature of the work. “During the course of my day, I’ll start conversations with people in Hong Kong in the morning, then as my morning progresses my work is based mainly in London, then as New York comes in the afternoon, my attention shifts over to there, then Latin America, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, they come in later in my afternoon. That’s something that’s quite unique to a global investment bank. We don’t have a lot of that exposure in Northern Ireland.”
She says flexibility is key to success in Citi. “Because of the global nature of the business, things change quite frequently and we have to change along with them.”
You have to want to work with people. “It is an organisation that would expect and encourage you to work well with others, to want to develop yourself and develop your colleagues as you go along. The attitude and flexibility you bring with you will take you a long way in Citi.”
And there’s a big range of jobs on offer. “There’s such a variety of Citi roles I would encourage people to come to Citi even if it wouldn’t be necessarily their natural choice or where they think their experience would take them.”
She also values the company’s approach to cultural diversity. “When it’s coming up to particular events in a different religious calendar or a culture that would be less familiar to us in Northern Ireland, we try to do events around those to get staff involved so we can learn more about other cultures of people we work with, so that would really be a big focus of Citi in Belfast.”
Kathy Walsh leads the private bank for Citi Belfast and joined five years ago. “I’ve spent a career travelling around the world in this industry in a variety of senior roles. London, the US, the Far East and now back home again to Belfast.”
The arrival of Citi in Belfast has had a transformative effect in her life. “Quite simply Citi opening in Belfast enabled me to come back home again, continue a global career that I loved in investment banking but obviously be based back at home in Belfast.”
The operation has grown considerably over the last five years. It’s now home to the private bank, Internal audit, compliance, research and markets functions, as well as its operations and tech business.
“The best thing is that no two days are ever the same. On a daily basis we get the privilege of interacting with global offices all over the world, a fantastic range of diversity of talented individuals.
“For us in the private bank we are dealing with very global citizens. They have a truly global presence and outlook and tend to be very entrepreneurial, we need to be able to touch their business across the globe. For us to have the opportunity to do that from Belfast is obviously extremely exciting.”
It’s created brilliant opportunities for people here. “Now you don’t have to leave Northern Ireland if you don’t want to - you can start your career in investment banking in Citi, in Belfast. We like to see ourselves as a portal, an entry point if you will. For people who want to be based in Belfast or for people who want to use Belfast as a springboard into the global world of finance and all the tremendous experiences and careers that this can lead to”.
She emphasises that Citi is a “meritocracy”. “No-one limits your ambitions in your career at Citi. There are no boxes here for anyone to put you in, the only limits to your development and that of your career will be the ones that you impose on yourself... We like people to come with their widely diverse skill sets and to flourish.”
Like Maddi, she emphasises the broad range of opportunities available. “We are looking to engage people from every direction and every pathway. The common factor is the actual people themselves , we are employing the enthusiasm, the energy, the drive, all those individual characteristics that when applied to our business across the firm in Belfast create the inspiration that makes the difference to our business and creates our competitive advantage.”
“If you feel you have the drive ,ambition and energy and are willing to bring with you to work everyday then we’d love to see you, and give you that opportunity to bring that it on board in Citi.”
“For me Citi is unique in that it provides an environment that will test you, enable you and develop you, There are very few careers or employers that offer that in today’s environment.”
If this interests you Citi are holding an Open house on Thu 11th October from 6-8pm at their Gateway House campus. You can register here.