Home Banking Citi’s Corbat has parting words: ‘Banking is quickly changing’

Citi’s Corbat has parting words: ‘Banking is quickly changing’

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Citigroup’s Michael Corbat warned that the world of banking is quickly changing in his final message as chief executive to the bank’s hundreds of thousands of employees.

Corbat, who will be succeeded by Jane Fraser on Monday, said customers are increasingly looking for financial services to be more personalized and delivered in a faster and simpler way.

“As I pass the reins to Jane, I can confidently say that this 208-year-old institution has its best days ahead,” Corbat said in a memo to staff. “I cannot wait to see how Citi helps shape this new world.”

Corbat, 60, reflected on the morning 38 years ago when he was headed to an interview for the training program at Salomon Brothers, one of Citigroup’s predecessor firms.

“I cannot wait to see how Citi helps shape this new world,” outgoing Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat said in a memo to staff.

Bloomberg News

“I woke up to catch a flight to New York City, only to discover that my car had been stolen,” Corbat said in the memo, noting he eventually made his way to New York and was offered a spot in the prestigious program. “Not exactly an auspicious beginning to my career.”

He spent decades climbing Citigroup’s ranks with stops as head of the franchise in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and a stint overseeing the unit that housed assets marked for sale in the aftermath of the financial crisis. He was named CEO in 2012.

“I have loved every job I’ve had at Citi,” Corbat said. “But serving as your CEO has been the honor of a lifetime.”

Facing scrutiny

Corbat’s departure comes as the bank is facing fresh scrutiny from regulators about its underlying technology and internal controls, work that will continue on Fraser’s watch.

She’s also taking over as the world continues to grapple with the deadly coronavirus pandemic, hindering economic growth and sending unemployment soaring. That’s meant the bank has had to set aside more in reserves to cover potentially souring loans, pressuring profits.

Still, it’s a far cry from the firm’s performance during the financial crisis, when Citigroup drew a larger bailout than any other U.S. bank and was forced to sell almost $1 trillion of subprime assets and exit dozens of businesses.

“Think about how far this bank has come over the last decade,” Susan Katzke, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group, said Thursday at a virtual conference.

During his tenure as CEO, Corbat became known for taking daring stances on social issues. The firm was the first major company to offer a frank assessment of the difference in wages it pays to men and women and remains one of the few companies to continue to do so today.

And when outcry over gun violence engulfed the U.S. in 2018, Corbat announced the bank would prohibit retailers that are customers of the firm from offering bump stocks or selling firearms to people who haven’t passed a background check or are younger than 21.

“As CEO, I’ve been determined to keep our mission and purpose front and center,” Corbat said in his parting memo. “As a global bank, we must never forget the tremendous influence Citi can have on society.”