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Subah Afrin

Pioneering Trade Expert: Subah Afrin

Subah Afrin, Head of Trade Product and Vice President of Citi Bank Bangladesh, stands out as a remarkable leader and professional, deeply rooted in her career journey at Citi. Afrin began her career as a Management Associate 13.5 years ago, steadily advancing to her current leadership role.

Her tenure includes a significant six-month stint in Citi Dubai and participation in various workshops in Citi India and Citi Malaysia, including the prestigious “Citi Management Associate Program” in Malaysia. A notable achievement in her career was representing Citi globally as a “One Young World” Ambassador, where she was the sole representative from the South Asia Cluster of Citi and one of the delegates chosen from 200 applicants worldwide. This summit took place in Germany. Furthermore, Afrin was honored as one of the “50 Leading Lights 2022” by Asia Square, University of Oxford, and The Financial Times for her contributions to women empowerment. She has also been instrumental in various trade product initiatives, including the recent launch of “Citi Supplier Finance,” designed to enhance the working capital efficiency of Bangladeshi clients through a straight-through processing product proposition.

Subah Afrin

In the dynamic field of trade finance, Afrin remains well-informed about the latest trends and developments.

This sector is influenced by factors such as geopolitics, globalization, complex cross-border trade landscapes, international rules, arbitration laws, and tax laws. Afrin stays current by regularly reviewing central bank circulars, economic macro indicators, credit rating agency reports, and updated legislative changes. She emphasizes the importance of understanding world economics and integrating these insights with microeconomic factors like interest rate and foreign exchange movements, as well as import and export volumes. This comprehensive approach helps her develop structured business solutions.

“Connectivity, convergence, and interoperability are the future of trade finance.” — Subah Afrin

Subah Afrin

Despite the progress, Afrin acknowledges significant challenges in the trade finance industry, particularly in Bangladesh. The country’s increasing involvement in international trade transactions and its goal of graduating from Least Developed Country (LDC) status by 2026 necessitate an efficient cross-border trade environment. Global economic challenges further complicate the landscape. However, Afrin notes that several initiatives by the government and central bank aim to address these challenges. She highlights her participation as a panelist in the “Banking Policy Dialogue (BPD-1)” organized by the Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM), where regulators and bankers engaged in proactive discussions to find efficient solutions.

Subah Afrin

Afrin believes that to make the trade business more robust in the current macroeconomic environment, embracing technology is crucial. Although trade has traditionally been paper-based, integrating technology is essential to bring together importers, exporters, banks,customs, and logistics under a unified system, creating synergy. The future of trade, according to Afrin, lies in connectivity, convergence, and interoperability across ecosystems. Providing trade finance to previously unbanked entities, promoting supplier chain financing, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) financing to reduce carbon emissions, and green financing are key to building a sustainable ecosystem for trade partners.

Looking ahead, Afrin aspires to a senior management leadership role in the next few years, with a continued focus on women empowerment both within and outside her organization. She advocates for the development of women through structured mentorship, believing that a sustainable and diverse workforce is a step towards an equitable world. Afrin’s commitment to social impact is evident in her selection as one of the 54 mentors for the “Social Impact Leadership Program,” featured in Citigroup’s Annual Report (2020, class 04), in collaboration with Dr. Muhammad Yunus & Youth. This experience has allowed her to give back to society while enhancing her learning skills.

Subah Afrin

Outside of her professional life, Afrin cherishes spending time with her family, particularly her seven-year-old son, Umayr, who shares her interests in football and rock music. Long drives with her son and husband provide her with relaxation and a chance to recharge. Afrin also values quality time with her parents and her sister, Sarah. Avidly fond of reading, she spends considerable time exploring books from various authors. Additionally, Afrin has a passion for singing, having taken professional lessons from Chayanot during her early days. Despite her busy schedule, she continues to learn music, focusing on folk songs that reflect Bangladeshi culture and heritage. Writing short journals about her daily life is another interest that helps her reflect on personal growth, areas of improvement, and track her life goals.

“Embracing technology in trade is paramount. By integrating all stakeholders—importers, exporters, banks, customs, and logistics—under a unified system, we can create synergy, foster innovation, and build a sustainable ecosystem for trade partners.” — Subah Afrin

About The Author

Noman Khan is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of Gaznobay.

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