Citi has launched a service to provide onshore agency and trust capabilities to Middle East clients.

The provision of the new agency and trust franchise follows the bankÆs move last year to open new branches in Qatar and Kuwait. It is now extending services to sharia compliant escrow services, settlement agent and security agent roles. It will initially focus on the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait, the bank said.

"We have launched this service because of increasing demand in the region for a local provider of these services,ö says Murali Subramanian, cluster head of global transaction services and acting head of GTS in the UAE for Citi.

Citi has identified the need for an agency function covering not just traditional assets such as funds but also physical assets. It notes there is also a need to integrate the agency or trustee escrow service provider into the transaction chain in order to turn it around quickly.

"We are therefore able to offer greater value to clients, a quicker turnaround and better economies in terms of pricing and legal opinion," says Subramanian.

CitiÆs issuer services document and execute deals ranging from sukuk (Islamic bond) transactions, through sharia compliant escrow arrangements, structured solutions, project financings and structured finance transactions in all geographies.

Citi says the bank is expanding its presence in the Middle East to capitalise on rising capital flows into the region.

"The nature of outward investments from the region tends to be conservative and remunerative," says Subramanian. "As part of our commitment to the region and plan to develop our global transaction banking product capabilities, we have complemented our existing suite of products with a service that we can execute out of this region.ö

Rising demand for Islamic finance from investors has contributed to CitiÆs plans to extend its footprint in the region. Sharia compliance involves following a set of Islamic principles by which compensation is provided or profits are shared by the bank with its clients. Citi says it has access to a board of sharia scholars to ensure it remains compliant.

Citi issuer services supports assets under custody in excess of $4 trillion in debt and equity. It cites debt issuers, investment banks, collateral managers and investment managers as its clients for a variety of agency, debt and fiduciary services.