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Theobald's theme for Citi: skills, not frills

Many have fled the austerity drive of Citicorp's head of investment banking, but he seems unfazed by criticisms that he may have swept out more than mere clutter.

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It's almost a standing joke in New York that Thomas Theobald, one of Citicorp's three vice chairmen and head of investment banking, shudders every time he has to entertain at the investment bank's offices in 55 Water Street.

The floors which Citicorp rents used to belong to Lehman Brothers. They still bear the unmistakable stamp of an investment bank: panelled rooms, marbled landings and reproduction furniture. Theobald and Citi have done their best to destroy the ambiance. Lehman's once elegant boardroom now has a stark concrete wall dividing it in two.

The choice of Citicorp's headquarters in London also jars the vice chairman. Next autumn Citi HQ is being moved to Billingsgate, the site of the old fish market, a decision taken just before Theobald took over the investment bank after six years of running Citi's institutional (i.e. commercial) bank. Designed by Sir Horace Jones, the architect of Tower Bridge spanning the Thames, it's one of the City of London's few stylish buildings to have survived both the Second World War and the developers. "It's not the monument I would take if I could start with a clean slate in the City of London,' said Theobald.

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