Citigroup CEO Eyes Further Asia Expansion

Citigroup is banking big on Asia's growth with plans to open 1,000 branches in the region within three to four years, its CEO Vikram Pandit said on CNBC Tuesday.

"Asia is a very big part of our business... given the growth that we see here and our ability to serve our clients, I have no reason to believe this is not going to be an even bigger part of what we do," said Pandit, who was in Hong Kong to open its largest Asian retail branch, its 43rd in the city.

The lender, which now has over 700 branches across Asia, has returned to profitability in the last three quarters following massive losses totaling $29 billion in 2008 and 2009. Citi earned $3.5 billion dollars in net income on $11 billion of revenue in the first nine months of 2010, Pandit said, highlighting his strategy of going back to the basics of banking.

"The basics of banking is about serving our clients. That's what we do, that's why we're in the business," he said. "There's no way we can help our clients if we compromise our financial strength...we believe we have all the elements in place for sustainable profitability and we're now focused on responsible growth. "

Citigroup joined Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan in probes by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) into possible wrongdoings, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Former Citigroup brokers - who worked for Citi-owned Smith Barney in California - have reportedly been testifying since summer 2009 about their experiences, the Journal said, citing sources close to the probe.

"We have been a big proponent of strong regulatory reform... we've got a lot of elements of what we think are the right things from a regulation perspective in the U.S.," Pandit said.

Pandit says the banking giant is currently focused on the implementation of the Basel III rules.

"We think we have the right capital requirements and we believe that they will make banking safer but there are other issues that are out there with Basel and those issues are about how you measure risk, how you calibrate risk ," he noted. "These are the kind of things that can have a big impact on trade, on consumer lending, on lending to small middle-sized businesses..."