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Citizens Bank may grow services for corporate, investment banking

A restructuring at the U.S. operations of a major Scottish bank could lead to more corporate and investment banking services for Western New York companies, but isn't likely to change the retail branch business of its Citizens Bank subsidiary, officials said.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc has created a new umbrella for its U.S. businesses, including Providence, R.I.-based Citizens Financial Group. The goal is to unify its retail and commercial banking side with corporate and investment banking.

Edinburgh-based RBS named longtime Citizens CEO Lawrence K. Fish as chairman of the new RBS America. He will remain chairman of Citizens and will stay on RBS' global board, but relinquished day-to-day control of Citizens to protege Stephen D. Steinour, who will remain president.

RBS also hired 30-year banking veteran Ellen Alemany as RBS America CEO. The former CEO of Citigroup Global Transaction Services, which employs several hundred at a facility in Amherst's CrossPoint Business Park, will also become a member of RBS' group executive management committee. She will report directly to RBS group CEO Sir Fred Goodwin.

"We've been looking at how we organize ourselves in the United States and today's announcement represents another significant milestone in the development of our business," Goodwin said during a telephone press conference, adding that it's been under discussion for at least a year. "This is a big step forward and we are excited by and look forward to the next stage of our evolution."

With $164 billion in assets, Citizens is the ninth-largest bank by assets, with nearly 1,600 branches and 3,200 ATMs in 13 New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states, covering 30 percent of the U.S. population. It serves 8 million retail customers and 460,000 business customers, and employs 23,100. And it's been known for an appetite for acquisitions.

In New York state, the bank has $17 billion in assets and 213 branches, including 46 in Western New York, many in supermarkets. It's the 5th-largest bank by deposits locally.

Goodwin said he hopes the new structure will allow the company to take advantage of cross-sell and growth opportunities between those customer bases.

But while larger companies here could benefit from the new efforts, consumers won't. Both Goodwin and Fish said there are no new branch or product plans on Citizens' retail banking side, with Goodwin calling those "business as usual activities" that "we do all of the time."

"Our ambition is undiminished in each of these areas, but there's nothing about a large initiative to warrant being talked about," Goodwin said.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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