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Citi hiring 200 bankers to target small business

Citigroup Inc. chief executive Vikram Pandit, who for the past two years has championed the U.S. bank's "globality," may be getting a new mantra: locality.

Citigroup, which claims 2,500 of the world's 3,000 largest corporations as clients, now says it also is targeting U.S. companies with less than $20 million of annual sales, and plans to hire about 200 bankers by the end of 2011 to court them. That would bring the number of small-business bankers to about 500, or one for every two North American branches.

"It's a renewed focus for us," Raj Seshadri, 45, head of small-business banking for Manhattan-based Citigroup, said in an interview. "We feel we can help business owners and the economic recovery, and there's money to be made for our shareholders."

Citigroup employed about 258,000 people as of Sept. 30.

Expanding the bank's focus to include doctors, restaurants and cabinetmakers alongside Coca-Cola Co. and wealthy individuals won't be easy, says Randy Dennis, president of Little Rock, Ark.-based DD&F Consulting Group, which advises banks with less than $15 billion of assets on risk management and business strategies.

"You're going to have inventory loans, you're going to have floor-plan financing for different types of dealerships, you're going to have receivables lending, you're going to have lines of credit for businesses to make payroll," Dennis said. "It's totally different, and it requires a great deal of monitoring." - Bloomberg

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