Citigroup has formally announced the introduction of retail transfer agency to customers in Asia-Pacific, as demand for more back office outsourcing takes greater root in the region. Following its launch, CitigroupÆs fund services business, part of its global transaction services (GTS) division, now has the capability to support clients throughout the region on both the retail investor and distributor level side.

Citigroup plans to target clients in the insurance, mutual fund and unit-linked space in Asia-Pacific over the coming months. It also sees a healthy pipeline of interest for its transfer agency services, stressing that prospective clients are keen to leverage its unique single platform over multiple markets approach.

Citigroup plans to offer transfer agency as both a stand alone product and bundled with its core fund administration services. The bank sees parts of Asia developing along the same lines as the US, where funds have different administrators and transfer agents. Citigroup plans to provide comprehensive services in both spaces.

"Traditionally, transfer agency has been offered as a third party service and what we've come to understand from prior experience is that you don't have to be a fund administrator to provide a transfer agency product," says Matthew Brown, managing director and Asia-Pacific regional head of Citigroup fund services. "Asia is similar to the US in the sense that fund transfer agency can be separated from fund administration, as opposed to them being provided as a bundled service by the same provider"

Citigroup says the project has been in the pipeline for the past 18 months and correlates with the firm's global transfer agency platform in operation in other markets. Known as the global transfer agency service (GTAS), the platform involves processing for mutual funds, unit trusts, as well as record keeping, static data and investor details and number of unit held services.

The reporting function of the retail transfer agency also includes investment statement, dividend notifications, contract notes and reports to the various fund managers. This element also requires constant interfacing between fund managers, distributors, operations centres, system support and call centres, which Citi believes can be accomplished easily through its experience in other market and technological due diligence in Asia.

"Transfer agency services are a critical component to our asset servicing capabilities enhancing our ability to provide comprehensive services to clients across the Asia-Pacific region," says Brown. "We also support our global customers' offshore products that are marketed in Asia-Pacific."

Outside of the standard features of a transfer agency platform, Citigroup fund servicesÆ retail transfer agency product allows asset managers in Asia Pacific support for offshore funds domiciled in Luxembourg, Dublin and the Caymen Islands, which will undoubtedly cater to certain investors in Hong Kong and Singapore.