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Tension brews as Citi devotes capital to better controls and to growth

Analysts press chief executive Jane Fraser on why returning capital to shareholders isn’t a higher priority given the returns gap to peers and Citi’s low stock price.

Citi's chief executive Jane Fraser

Jane Fraser, the still-new chief executive of Citi, sounded bright and enthusiastic on the bank’s third-quarter earnings call, sharing her pride at the Institutional Client Group reporting its second-best quarterly investment banking revenues in the past 10 years and its best quarter for M&A.

The bank has been hiring, recruiting 200 corporate and investment bankers to build coverage in the busiest sectors – technology, healthcare, fintech and private equity. Fraser says these investments, part of a strategic refresh of the group following its decision to exit consumer banking in 13 countries and re-invest freed up capital in higher return businesses, are paying off.

In wealth management, too, Citi has hired 500 advisers and front-office staff, many in Asia, where the opportunity is biggest.

“It’s a new Citi,” Fraser stated.

We are going to do what is necessary to narrow the gap to our peers and drive up returns. We’re going to do that by running the bank better
Jane Fraser, Citi

Well, it needs to be. Citi is the last of the big US global banks still trading at a discount to tangible book value per share.

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