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Opinion

Citigroup’s management window dressing

It could be that the bank is simply too large, and only disposals can change the culture. But the recent changes are, to date at least, a missed opportunity.

Reorganization of senior management and capital markets business is a missed opportunity.

Citigroup demands a much greater degree of attention than almost any other financial institution. At times, Chuck Prince must wish it didn’t. But such scrutiny is justified.

Why? First, because of what Citigroup was meant to become. Go back to the start of the decade and Sandy Weill’s vision of the world’s financial supermarket had everyone trembling. The unstoppable force that Citi would surely become struck fear in the hearts of other bank CEOs and changed the banking landscape. Would JPMorgan/Chase/BankOne exist today if it hadn’t been for the threat of Citigroup?

Of course the reality has been somewhat different. And the main reason for the level of scrutiny of Citigroup is that its share price hasn’t moved for five years, despite a period of unprecedented growth and profitability for the financial markets.

Still, the bank remains one of only two main reference points for the industry. The other is Goldman Sachs. Ask any investment banker which firm he most admires, or knows he is most likely to lose business to, and Goldman’s name is at the top of the list. Similarly, ask any banker which firm he most fears and the answer remains Citigroup, albeit with a recurring caveat – “if they ever got their act together”.

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