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

In an interview with Dow Jones Newswires, Citi Private Bank's North America Chief Executive Peter Charrington says he would like the unit, which boasts 130 bankers, to reach a total of about 260.

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

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

Charrington was named CEO of Private Bank, North America in June after leading Citi's ultra-high-net worth businesses in the United Kingdom, Israel and Monaco.

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

The Private Bank also added regional executives such as Michael Smith and Mark Connally from Barclays Wealth, a unit of Barclays PLC, who are tasked with recruiting additional talent.

Citi Private Bank has $90 billion in client business volume — a figure which includes investments, cash management, and credit among other things. The Private Bank has an ultra-high-net worth business, but also caters to the wealth management needs of attorneys in its law firm group.

Some major competitors in the ultra-high-net-worth arena are JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s Private Bank, Bank of America Corp.'s Merrill Lynch Private Banking & Investment Group, or PBIG, UBS AG's Private Wealth Management group, and Barclays Wealth.

While Citi Private Bank was previously aligned with Smith Barney, the bank 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.

That lack of overlap with Smith Barney could be one reason why Charrington said Citi is receiving the resumes of professionals "we wouldn't have seen 18 months ago."

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," he said.

Charrington says with the stock market's recovery from its lows 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.

Citi plans to grow its private bank organically, Charrington says, and it has "no plans to do acquisitions at this stage."

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