In the wide world of megabanks, niche plays can become more important than ever.

Even banks that are very large in this country can be small elsewhere.

Take Citibank, for example.

In Asia, Citi has market shares of between 1.1% and 3.4% in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Manila, and Jakarta. It certainly does not have a dominant position.

But among its target customers in these markets, Citi's status is much higher. Some 40% to 50% recognize it as a premier financial institution.

Where Citibank wants to be recognized, it has achieved that objective.

Targeting and niche identification were key.

Citibank executives considered their assets. They have a global network and a very effective Pan-Asian network that includes cash management, asset management, credit capacity, and money movement capability.

They asked, "Who would benefit from these assets the most?"

The answer: multinational companies and top-tier local companies that need financial advice and foreign currency expertise.

Also, entrepreneurs and small-business owners who do business across all Asia; these people need liquidity, the ability to move dollars offshore, and someone to manage their investment portfolios.

Having identified the niche, Citibank set out to staff its branches with people who could serve it best.

In Indonesia, for example, Chinese-who make up only 3% of the population-control 70% of the commerce. So of Citi's employees in the country, 97% of whom are local, 80% are Chinese.

Citibank also positioned itself in the corporate market not as a lender, but as the adviser of choice for multinational companies and major local companies.

As a result, Citi has prospered in Asia.

Citibank's example illustrates the effectiveness of focus, customer segmentation, and playing to one's core competencies and competitive advantages. You don't have to be a giant on the ground to become a giant in people's minds.

Every community bank can learn from Citibank's experience.

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