Banamex’s Future in the Hands of its Next Owner, According to CEO Manuel Romo

Citibanamex’s focus, for now, is on separating the operations of Citi Mexico and Banamex by the second half of the year, said the bank’s CEO in an interview

Manuel Romo
April 09, 2024 | 01:26 PM

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Mexico City — The sale of Banamex through an initial public offering (IPO) opens up the possibility of a third party eventually acquiring some of the bank’s businesses or portfolios, if that is what the next owner decides, says Citibanamex’s still-CEO Manuel Romo, who will soon be solely in charge of the bank as it separates from Citigroup.

“It’s going to have a new owner, it’s going to be a public bank, depending on what the shareholders’ meeting and the board of directors say,” Romo said in an interview with Bloomberg Línea.

Romo stated that there will be discussions on various strategic directions once the sales process is finalized. However, he considers it “speculative to look too far into the future” to anticipate how and when these conversations could occur.

Since Citigroup announced its exit from retail banking in Mexico in January 2022, it has been seeking to sell Banamex, including consumer banking, corporate banking, insurance, the retirement fund (afore), and cultural heritage.


Banamex: first the separation, then the stock market

Citibanamex, which was established in 2001 following Citigroup’s acquisition offer, is in its final months as a single entity. During the second half of the year, Citi plans to complete the separation between its retail and wholesale banking businesses and conduct the Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 2025, after 24 years of owning the Mexican bank. Citi will continue to report business results until its stake falls below 50%.

Romo noted they have not yet decided on the market for the exit, whether it will be in the Mexican, American, or dual market. The focus for now is on dividing the entities and the business dynamics. Citi has already defined leadership roles for the new phase, with Manuel Romo leading Banamex, Ignacio Deschamps heading the group, and Álvaro Jaramillo overseeing private and institutional banking under Citi Mexico, forming its own financial group.

The bank is currently conducting technical tests to transition 2,000 clients out of its total 22 million to what will become Citi Mexico, in a process it hopes to conduct without any disruptions to their operations. He explained that there are a couple of regulatory and legal issues that need to be authorized before finalizing the transaction, but right now, they are mainly testing all systems and pipelines.


Despite Banamex being an emblem for the Mexican financial sector, Romo says he does not feel nostalgic, rather expressing enthusiasm for the new stage of the bank. He cited examples of other countries where Citi has conducted similar operations, selling the consumer part and keeping the corporate banking part. In all cases, both have grown more than they were together over a couple of years.

Isolated from the noise

The sale of Banamex sparked much interest during its initial phase, as direct sales began to be explored. In the last two years, it has attracted entrepreneurs from both within and outside the sector, including Carlos Slim, Ricardo Salinas Pliego, and Carlos Hank González. Figures such as Santander’s leader Ana Botín and Daniel Becker, Mifel’s president (a medium-sized bank in Mexico), were also involved.

Mining entrepreneur Germán Larrea, the second richest man in Mexico according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, came closest to reaching an agreement before Citi opted for the IPO offer in May 2023.

During this period, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador closely monitored the process and made specific requests, such as not laying off workers, preferring a local buyer, ensuring interested parties were up to date with tax payments, and preserving cultural heritage. The president even hinted at a possible government purchase days before the IPO decision was announced.


Despite all these movements, Manuel Romo stated that the financial institution made a significant effort to distance itself from the surrounding noise. He considered this attempt successful, as the bank has seen double-digit growth in almost all consumer portfolios.

However, Citibanamex did not rank among the top three banks that generated record profits in 2023. Although the bank’s consumer segments have grown and it maintains the second-largest credit card portfolio, recent figures from the National Banking and Securities Commission indicate a decrease in Citibanamex’s participation in areas such as corporate lending or deposits compared to January 2022, the year the sale was announced.

“I believe that in the products where we are not growing at the market’s pace, we are addressing the issue seriously by examining the root cause, improving service and value offerings to our customers, better training our executives, and being more present there,” said Romo.

Regarding nearshoring, the group plans to use Citi’s international presence in almost 100 countries to assist clients looking to enter the American market. Banamex will maintain relationships with these companies by providing services such as payroll and offerings for small and medium-sized enterprises within the supply chain.