Citigroup Inc. plans to double the size of its private banker force in North America over the next several years.

Peter Charrington, North America chief executive for the private bank, said he would like the 130-banker unit to have about 260 bankers.

Building up the private bank, which targets investors with a net worth of at least $25 million, is important for Citi after the bank put its Smith Barney brokerage into a joint venture with Morgan Stanley a year ago.

"We have 22 locations in North America and will add selectively by putting talent in key markets," Charrington said in an interview.

Since last summer, Citigroup has added private bankers in North American regions including Miami and Connecticut and has filled management roles including global chief investment officer and global head of asset allocation.

Charrington was named to his current post in June after leading Citi's ultra-high-net-worth businesses in the U.K., Israel and Monaco.

Citi Private Bank has $90 billion in client business volume, a figure that includes investments, cash management and credit.

The unit has an ultra-high-net-worth business but also caters to attorneys in its law firm group.

Major players in the ultra-high-net-worth field include JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s private bank, Bank of America Corp.'s Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment Group and UBS AG's private wealth management group.

Citi Private Bank, which was previously aligned with Smith Barney, is now under Citi's institutional clients group. The shift has given bankers in the unit exclusive access to wealthy clients and eliminated any previous overlap with high-producing Smith Barney brokers.

The lack of overlap with Smith Barney could be one reason Citi has been receiving resumes from bankers "we wouldn't have seen 18 months ago," Charrington said.

The connection with the institutional group means "clients now have access to sophisticated capital markets, access to the investment bank, access to research, and investment opportunities around the world," Charrington said.

"They have, for example, access to emerging markets — China, India, Brazil and Southeast Asia."

Charrington said that, with the stock market's recovery from its lows of a year ago, Citi is beginning to see more interest from clients in areas such as distressed asset purchases, residential real estate purchases, jet financing and art financing.

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