HONG KONG – American multinational investment bank and financial services corporation, Citigroup Inc plans to set up a wholly owned securities business in China, reports Reuters.

 People with knowledge of the matter said in October, that the Bank was taking advantage of Beijing’s move to fully open up some of its financial sectors to foreigners next year.

Citi is currently in the process of completing its exit from a minority-owned securities joint venture in China, a process that one of the sources said is expected to be completed by end of this year.

The exit, which was first announced late last year, was seen as paving the way for the U.S. bank to set up its own brokerage in the world’s second-largest economy.

Citi’s plans to set up a wholly owned securities business in China are in the early stages, said the sources, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“Citi continues to evaluate opportunities to further support its clients in China,” a spokesman for the bank said in an emailed statement to Reuters, declining to give details.

Global investment banks are currently able to own up to 51% of their China operations. That requires a joint venture with local Chinese partners, Beijing has however, pledged to ease foreign ownership limits in the financial sector over a period of time.

Last week, China announced a firm timetable for opening its futures, brokerage and mutual fund sectors fully to foreign investors next year, the latest step to deregulate the country’s financial industry that is worth trillions of dollars.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission will start taking in applications in the second quarter of 2020, and plans to give at least couple of licenses for wholly-owned securities business by end of the year, said a source with knowledge of the plans.

Citi, which has a large retail and corporate banking presence in China, will become one of the first foreign banks to set up a wholly-owned securities business in China, if the plans are finalised.

Citi is not the only group seeking to get a piece of the thriving financial sector.

French lender Societe Generale has also ditched a plan for a securities joint venture in China in favor of a wholly-owned subsidiary, a senior executive of the bank said over the weekend.