Citi appoints its first female CEO

Jane Fraser, who was named the company’s president last year, will join the board

FILE PHOTO: Citigroup Latin America CEO Jane Fraser addresses a Brazil-U.S. Business Council forum to discuss relations and future cooperation in Washington, U.S. March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo
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Citigroup picked Jane Fraser as its next chief executive, placing the first woman atop any major global bank.

Ms Fraser will succeed Mike Corbat, who is retiring in February after more than eight years in the top job, the New York-based bank said in a statement. Ms Fraser, who was named the company’s president last year, will join the board immediately.

Mr Corbat helped Citigroup shrink and return to consistent profitability after the behemoth almost collapsed in the 2008 financial crisis. Now, Ms Fraser will be tasked with improving returns that trail industry leader JPMorgan Chase & Co and using the bank’s global network in a world that’s seeing more nationalism and trade barriers.

“We completed our transformation from the financial crisis and emerged a simpler, safer and stronger institution,” Mr Corbat said in the statement. “There is always more to do and I believe the time is right for my successor to lead Citi through this next stage of progress.”

Ms Fraser, who’s Scottish, joined Citigroup in 2004 and has since risen to become the head of the bank’s sprawling consumer operations after stops as head of the bank’s Latin American business and its private bank. Her promotion last year came after she was viewed as a potential candidate for chief executive jobs at other banks, including Wells Fargo.

Under Mr Corbat, Citigroup has become a slimmer organisation with just two main businesses: the institutional clients group and the global consumer bank. In the institutional unit, Mr Corbat has focused the bank’s efforts on its “network” businesses, such as its treasury and trade solutions group, which he often refers to as the “backbone” of the bank.

Mr Corbat, 60, is bowing out as Citigroup battles one of its biggest challenges ever with the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced the bank to keep much of its workforce home and craft widespread forbearance offerings for its customers around the world.

As the world’s largest credit-card issuer, Citigroup will soon see the global tidal wave of unemployment begin to make its way to its portfolio as those programmes and government relief funds slowly run out. Citigroup said it would announce a successor for Ms Fraser to run the consumer unit in coming weeks.

“The way our team has come together during this pandemic shows what Citi is made of,” Ms Fraser, 53, said. “I am excited to join with my colleagues in writing the next chapter.”