Citibank expands to Elm City

Now that Citibank has confirmed rumors that it will open two new branches in New Haven County, Yale students with Citibank accounts may soon have easier access to banking services.

The international bank plans to open a new office in North Haven and another one in downtown New Haven by next fall, furthering its expansion into the New England states. The New Haven branch’s proposed location is at the intersection of Church and Chapel streets.

“It’s a strategic decision to commit more resources to Connecticut,” said John S. Carusone, the president of the Bank Analysis Center in Hartford.

With only nine branches now open in Connecticut, all in Fairfield County, the bank has multiple avenues through which it may further expand into the market. The bank’s established position in the affluent Fairfield area has primed the new branches for success, Carusone said.

“Citibank is arguably one of the most recognizable and financially well-muscled banks in the world,” he said. “Its arrival will offer more options for the entire city.”

While New Haven Deputy Director of Economic Development Tony Bialecki said city officials could not specifically comment on the arrival of Citibank in New Haven because of the lack of a formal announcement from the bank, he said the presence of large corporations in downtown New Haven is indicative of the high level of growth that the city has experienced during its recent revitalization.

“[A large bank opening] means that there is a market and that the economy is doing well,” he said.

Bialecki said that although the large number of banks currently in New Haven creates the impression of a saturated market, several local banks continue to expand, suggesting that local demand in the banking industry is growing.

The bank, which competes primarily with Bank of America in the region, will continue to expand outside its current position in Fairfield, Carusone said.

“[The bank] cannot concede Connecticut or New England to [Bank of America], its arch-rival,” he said.

Because of Citibank’s status as a large retail bank, Carusone said, New Haven’s smaller local banks will likely survive the competition.

“The regional banks will try to differentiate from [Citibank's] image as large, global, behemoth by appearing more flexible and local,” he said. But Carusone also predicted that Citibank might use its larger resources to buy the market and that consumers will initially benefit from tough market competition.

Joseph V. Ciaburri, the chairman and CEO of the Bank of Southern Connecticut, said that since Citibank is a retail bank and Southern Connecticut specializes in wholesale banking, his company is not concerned about losing a large share of the market.

“We don’t worry about the competition,” he said. “We do our own thing. And we try to help the economy of greater New Haven.”

Looking at New Haven’s economic past, Bialecki said that just like Southern Connecticut, local banks with niche markets will not suffer as long as they retain their local edge.

“Many of these smaller banks tend to know the local economy and establish specific relationships within the community to which they can pay closer attention,” he said.

Carusone said the direct economic effect of a Citibank branch on the Yale community will be modest.

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