ruthless pruning

O’Neill…joined the Citigroup board in 2009, became chairman this year and has played an increasingly powerful role, as most vividly shown by his ousting of Vikram Pandit as chief executive in October, after months of tension. O’Neill, who hand-picked new CEO Michael Corbat, has an uphill task ahead of him. Citigroup is groaning under $171 billion of assets it wants to shed, has high expenses, and its profitability lags behind that of such competitors as JPMorgan Chase & Co. And O’Neill faces the same question that kept him from being a contender for the Citigroup CEO spot: while he can fix a smaller bank, can he revamp a behemoth as complicated as Citigroup? O’Neill, who declined to comment for this story through a spokesman, has provided some clues about his plan to turn the bank around. On a conference call with investors the day that Pandit stepped down, he said that he will follow his typical playbook. A dozen people who have worked with O’Neill over the years say that plan usually involves the ruthless pruning of underperforming operations and deciding which ones are worth additional investment. [Reuters]