Abstract: Backdoor Bankers: The Origins of Citigroup's Australia Operations

Harry Knowles, Greg Patmore, and John Shields


Until the mid-1980s the Australian banking industry was officially closed to "foreign" competition, with the Federal treasury and the major domestic private and state-owned banks maintaining a closed shop on the issue of banking licenses. For decades, the closed banking system precluded direct entry into the banking sector by foreign firms. This system was finally ended in 1985, when Labor government treasurer Paul Keating issued licenses to sixteen foreign-owned banks, including the U.S.-owned Citibank. In truth, however, by this juncture Citibank was already a major player in banking in the Asia-Pacific region, one with twenty years of experience in the Australian financial services sector. Drawing on current theoretical insights on MNC diversification, growth, and development, as well as on Australian and American interview testimony and on hitherto untapped archival material, this paper analyzes the details and implications of Citibank's initial penetration of, and expansion within, the Australia financial services sector.