Grupo Financiero Banamex, a Mexican subsidiary of Citigroup Inc., plans to hire about 1,600 people and open about 230 bank branches and consumer finance offices this year, an executive said.

The additions will extend Citi's investment in high-growth markets such as Mexico and Central America, where it recently paid more than $1.51 billion for two purchases, while it looks to cut expenses elsewhere.

In April, Citi unveiled a restructuring plan that will eliminate about 17,000 jobs, mainly middle- and back-office ones, and save it about $1.7 billion this year.

About 57% of the cuts will take place outside the United States.

"We are Citigroup, and we directly share and participate in the institution's objectives as a whole. The tendency in that context has been productivity and rationalizing costs," Enrique Zorrilla, chief executive of Banamex's banking unit, said last week in an interview.

"We are maintaining important levels of investment. There is no change in our appetite to grow, and I would say that is worldwide," he said.

Last year Banamex opened 137 branches and 126 consumer finance offices, ending the year with 1,509 branches, 394 consumer finance offices, and about 45,000 employees.

Its efficiency ratio is slightly below 50% and likely will be 46% to 49% at yearend, even with the spending on branches and personnel, Mr. Zorrilla said.

Banamex also is aiming for positive operating leverage, he said; it wants revenue to grow 17% and expenses increase 4% by the end of next year.

Mexico's banking industry, which is dominated by foreign companies like Citi, HSBC Holdings PLC of the United Kingdom, and Banco Santander Central Hispano SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria of Spain, has enjoyed over three straight years of strong growth, as a result of an expanding economy and demand for credit by both businesses and consumers.

Performing bank loans to the private sector grew 28.4% last year, to $104.2 billion, according to the Bank of Mexico.

Bank earnings also have soared, as a result of lending and commissions.

Banamex's first-quarter net income rose 12% from a year earlier, to $498 million. Its revenue grew 20%, to $1.64 billion.

The subsidiary accounted for 19% of Citi's international net income and 15% of its international revenue during the first quarter.

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