The Citi – Axis deal nears the finish line

In April 2021, Citibank announced that it would be exiting the retail businesses, including credit cards, retail banking, consumer loans and many other such lines of business in 15 geographies in Asia and Europe, including India. Their rationale was that the business did not gain scale in these geographies, so they wanted to refrain from committing more resources to these markets. In March 2022, they announced that the Indian retail business would be carved out and sold to Axis Bank for USD 1.6 Billion. The date was said to be set as the first half of 2023.

Citibank is close to delivering the goods to Axis Bank.

For most of the second half of 2022, Citibank inundated me, and perhaps most of their customers, to get them to consent to transfer their relationships to Axis Bank. They spammed me day in and day out for me to say YES. Not a good impression to show that they were desperate.

a screenshot of a web page

When they could not convince customers to say YES to moving their relationships, Citi changed tactics and wrested a YES out of them. They said that if you use your card, it’s consent. If you redeem your rewards, it’s consent. And so on.

a screenshot of a email

And this worked, given me and a lot of other folks got these messages over the past few weeks, despite not having expressly clicked a link to say Yes.

a screenshot of a email

To keep the band of customers together, Citi has also hiked marketing spending and discounts over the past few months, as everyone would have noticed. They’ve even been paying influencers to get the message out about their discounts.

a person holding a credit card

After all, the eventual deal size of what Axis Bank pays Citi for would depend on the number of accounts delivered on the closing date. So, the overbearing enthusiasm from their end now. I wish this enthusiasm existed over the years, and they did not have a small book to show for their years in India in the first place.

Citi has started closing accounts in preparation for a move to Axis Bank.

For those who chose not to be heading to Axis Bank, Citi has now started closing their bank accounts. For instance, Social Media is currently full of complaints from customers whose accounts with Citi have vanished overnight.

In fairness, Citi had sent out emails to customers about a pending closure of their accounts in the past month or so.

a screenshot of a credit card

Citi has stopped renewing the insurance for Prestige Customers.

This one gave me chuckles. Citi did not renew its group travel insurance, which is a part of the benefit from Citi for all Prestige Customers for their international travel, and blamed it on administrative challenges. I don’t think, though, in my small number of years running M&A in financial services and banking, did I ever refer to the sale of assets as “administrative challenges.”

a close up of a message

When asked if they are rebating the fee for withdrawing a key product feature or replacing it with something else of an equivalent nature, Citi said no and no.


Citibank is nearing the finish line in terms of putting a bow on its assets in India and handing them over to Axis Bank. In exchange, they will be paid over a billion dollars. However, I don’t like how they’ve gone about the whole exercise, which largely reeks of desperation from Citi’s end to get this done with and tarnish the reputation they built in India over the years (only talking credit cards here, not banking!). And hence, I already moved my spending from Citi to Axis Bank in anticipation.

It will likely be a few more days before we get a morning email saying we are customers of Axis Bank, so why not already start benefiting their P & L. I anticipate the deal to be closed before the end of this financial year (March 31, 2023).

What are your thoughts on Citi’s handling of their retail banking business sale to Axis Bank?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. Citi may decide to conduct its business as they like. When you signed up for your account you were clearly given to understand that terms of service may change. We perhaps relied too much on Citi and for that reason their withdrawal hurts. If your dissatisfaction continues, you have option to pull out from their services elsewhere in the world. I am also an existing customer of Citi both in India and USA. What has been hurting the most , and creating dissatisfaction, is their smooth process of transferring funds between the account in both the countries. Let us share base pain points and alternate ways to achieve the same outcome at same or lesser cost. I would not fret over Citi services in India, competitor will always be available.

  2. I just dont understand why you people are so negative about city bank. As a Citibank nri customer I have a great experience and got best customer service. They approached us since six months when they signed deal with Axis bank. THEY CLEARLY TOLD US POLITELY, THAT IF WE DONT GIVE CONSENT OUR ACCOUNTS WILL BE CLOSED BY THE CUT OFF DATE. If you give consent your banking will be as usual with Axis bank. So what is the issue?
    Harshad Patel

  3. What happens to the group insurance taken from Citibank? Mine is up for renewal end Feb. No one replies to emails sent to Citibank

  4. My application to a separate axis card got rejected because of their internal reasons. i am intrigued to know what will happen when axis gets hold of my credit card account from citi. They will pay citi for it and then close my account perhaps. i hope they pay a heavy price for it. i have no interest in keeping a relationship with axis, said yes only so i could use my citi card for as long as possible. They gave me my first credit card 15 years ago, and citi is like my 1st love.

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