Citi: John Reed reshuffles the pack
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Citi: John Reed reshuffles the pack

Chairman John Reed's successor could be any one of half a dozen managers running the new streamlined Citicorp - Reed is giving nothing away about his favoured choice. But this group is fast changing the culture of the "largest small bank in the world" as it retools its approach to branded products and global coverage. Peter Lee reports.

After five years of crisis management and recovery from its near-fatal brush with commercial real-estate lending, Citicorp is implementing its plans for the next century. It intends to be a very different bank from the leviathan that lurched from one crisis to the next in the 1980s. That bank was decentralized, thinly capitalized, poorly managed and diverse.

This one will be the opposite. It will be dominated by just two strong divisions: consumer banking worldwide, and emerging market wholesale banking. A third and lesser division, commercial banking in the developed world, will concentrate on a handful of profitable products, dealing with an exclusive customer list. One of its main tasks will be to track these customers as they expand across borders, especially into emerging markets.

There will be no sudden lurch into insurance, information technology or global investment banking.

If the bank can stick to its plans, its opportunities are considerable. "People tend to think of Citicorp as some huge behemoth," says Robert Albertson, director of US bank research at Goldman Sachs. "It's not. In some ways, it's the largest small bank in the world. Except in US credit cards, in no product or market is its market share significant."

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