US-based financial services firm Citigroup is reportedly planning to open a new investment banking business in China and hire around 30 people for the new unit by the end of this year.

The new investment banking unit would expand Citi’s operations in China, where the company already offers corporate lending and other banking services.

As part of its plans to ramp up its presence in the Chinese market, Citi has applied for a brokerage business licence in mainland China, in late 2021.

Last month, the Chinese securities watchdog granted the brokerage business licence.

Building on the license approval, the company decided to start hiring employees for the new unit, according to a filing with China’s Securities Regulatory Commission.

Citi aims to launch its China investment banking unit within 12 to 18 months.

It has already hired the chief executive, chief financial officer and chief compliance officers for the China investment banking unit and will hire 30 other staff by the end of this year.

The Wall Street bank plans to triple the staff at the new unit to nearly 100 in the coming years, through local hires and transfers from Hong Kong and other markets.

Currently, the bank is in talks with Chinese regulators regarding data compliance, as part of its infrastructure build-out for the new business.

Through the new China venture, Citi joins other Wall Street players such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley who expanded their local brokerage businesses in the region.

The move comes at a time when growth in China is hindered by a deepening real estate crisis.

Last year, the economic troubles and US-China relations have driven overseas investors away from Chinese equities and led to a drain of foreign capital.

However, China is continuing to open up its financial sector to foreign players, and several US-based financial firms have expanded their operations in the country.

The China expansion comes amid the bank’s large-scale restructuring in decades.

Last year, Citi closed its retail banking business in China and sold its China wealth portfolio to HSBC, as part of its strategy to withdraw from 13 retail banking markets worldwide.