Citigroup Isn't Even Good At the Only Thing It's Good At

Things are not good when your new CEO's priority number one is to "stop destroying our shareholders' capital." But The Wall Street Journal isn't above kicking a bank when it's down.
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Things are not good when your new CEO's priority number one is to "stop destroying our shareholders' capital." But The Wall Street Journal isn't above kicking a bank when it's down.

The latest weak point to be splashed on the cover of the C Section is Citi's retail banking operation, which is still in the hands of one of Vikram Pandit's cronies and which has the highest average deposits per branch of top lenders but which may or may not still keep track of customer accounts longhand. Plus, there's this compelling anecdote in the lede:

Adam Greenfield has been a Citibank customer for 15 years, but he has grown frustrated with what he calls its poor service and "tone deaf" efforts to sell him new products.

After Mr. Greenfield's account at the Citigroup unit was compromised late last year, he decided he had enough. Now, Mr. Greenfield, who runs an urban-design practice in Manhattan, is looking for a new bank.

"I never found that they particularly cared about me," he said.

Unsurprisingly for a bank so "tone-deaf," Citi was not interested in commenting on the experience of a single (soon-to-be-former) client.

But read on: There's an antiquated computer system that won't be upgraded until next year; some cutbacks in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas; and higher costs than at other retail banks. There's also some evidence contrary to the thesis:

The unit earned $231 million in the fourth quarter, a 41% increase from the same period a year earlier but a 32% drop from the third quarter of 2012.

A Citibank spokeswoman said the North American retail bank has shown improvements in other ways.

It finished 2012 with the highest checking balances, the highest annualized checking growth and the lowest attrition in five years. Acquisition of new customers was the highest since 2009.

"We're not where we want to be by any means, but we are making progress," Ms. Stewart said in a recent interview.

No matter, say unnamed sources.

Now, the pressure is mounting on Ms. Stewart to deliver results, according to analysts and company insiders.

And the branches are so much less cozy than the WaMu sites that Chase took over.

Citi Still Lagging in Retail Overhaul [WSJ]

Related

Meredith Whitney: Citigroup Should Just Give Up

Earlier today, we wondered if, in light of the news that Vikram Pandit had resigned as CEO of Citigroup, analyst Meredith Whitney's opinion of the bank had changed. Choice comments that Whitney has made about the Big C in the past have included: "Citigroup is in such a mess Stephen Hawking couldn’t turn this company around"; "Citi is like an old broken-down Victorian house"; and Citi “has no earnings power, isn’t going to grow, hasn’t been investable in four years." She also once told Maria Bartiromo that the only way she'd change her mind about company would be if she received "a new brain." Still, sometimes analysts change their tune when new blood is brought in and, like former FDIC chair Sheila Bair, perhaps some of her beef with the bank had been a personal dislike of Uncle V. Now that he's gone, is she seeing Citigroup in a new light? Not so much, no. In the wake of CEO Vikram Pandit‘s surprise departure this morning, Whitney, founder and CEO of Meredith Whtney Advisory Group LLC, issued a note cautioning clients to be wary of Citigroup even under new leadership. “Citigroup is ‘the incredible shrinking bank,’ and the least interest of the big four, in our opinion,” Whitney said. “No CEO will be able to change these facts in the near-term. It appears the board feels the same way, as they have appointed an unknown to the outside to the new CEO position, Mike Corbat.” [...] On Tuesday, the stock has wavered between gains and losses on heavy trading volume in reaction to Pandit’s resignation. Shares are up 29% this year through Monday’s close. Despite signs of incremental improvement, Whitney isn’t backing down from her bearish stance. “Any seat in Citigroup’s court should come with a warning label,” Whitney says. Meredith Whitney: No CEO Can Fix Citigroup [WSJ] Earlier: Meredith Whitney Cannot Stress Enough How Little She Thinks Of Citigroup

Citigroup Investors Don't Care About Making Vikram Pandit Smile

[caption id="attachment_73871" align="alignleft" width="234" caption="Y'all can kiss this ear to ear grin good-bye"][/caption] In the spring of 2010, almost exactly two years ago to date, the New York Times reported that some of Vikram Pandit's top lieutenants had noticed "a new bounce in his step" and "a smile on his face," with one executive speculating that the Citi CEO's cheer could be attributed to the fact that he was starting to "see the day when he will earn more than $1 a year" within reach. On January 18, 2011, that day came. After essentially not receiving a salary since 2008, when he pledged to abstain from getting paid until Citi turned a profit, the board of directors approved "an increase in the annual rate of base salary for Vikram from $1 per year to $1,750,000 per year, effective immediately." It felt good. Really good. Know what doesn't? This crap. Citigroup investors rejected the bank’s executive pay plan, a first among the six largest U.S. lenders, amid criticism it lets Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit collect millions of dollars in rewards too easily. About 45 percent of the votes favored the plan, which Citigroup had argued would help attract and retain top talent, according to a preliminary tally at the New York-based firm’s annual meeting in Dallas today. While the vote isn’t binding, outgoing Chairman Richard Parsons said changes will be made. Citigroup Shareholders Reject Management’s Compensation Plan [Bloomberg]

Former Citigroup Chairman Surprised/Not Surprised By Vikram Pandit's Departure, Has Some Vino To Sell You

According to Dick Parsons, who stepped down as chairman of Citi in March because Mike Mayo told him to, last week's news that Pandit had left the building for good was "somewhat" surprising, while at the same time, sort of expected, because whipping morbidly obese companies into shape just really isn't Vikram's thing. “You need seasoned, honed managers who can cause a 250,000, 300,000-personnel organization to march” with direction, Parsons said in a weekend interview at his Tuscan vineyard in Montalcino, Italy. “Vikram will tell you, ‘That’s not my bag.’” Pandit, 55, produced “every good idea that we had” to prevent Citigroup’s collapse during the financial crisis, Parsons said. New CEO Michael Corbat, 52, who previously ran the Citi Holdings unit, is well-equipped to lead the firm as it cuts costs and sells unwanted assets, the ex-chairman said. “Mike Corbat, who I knew back in the day when he ran the Holdings operation, is just that kind of man,” said Parsons, 64, adding that he was “somewhat” surprised by the timing of Pandit’s exit. “The transition and change was, in the long term, not inevitable but appropriate.” Anyway, who wants wine? Parsons, visiting his Il Palazzone vineyard to inaugurate a cellar, said regulatory pressures will still be a challenge for the new management team. “Externally, it’s still going to be tough,” said Parsons, sipping a glass of his 2004 Brunello Riserva as he sat outside a stone house set on an ancient trail from Frankfurt to Rome. “To some extent, the regulatory/political community is still almost at war with the big banks.” Nelson Rockefeller introduced Parsons to fine wines. He plans to turn the hobby into a profitable business by doubling production of red wines that retail in the U.S. for as much as $130 a bottle. Parsons Sipping Red Wine Calls Pandit Exit ‘Appropriate’ [Bloomberg] Earlier: Vikram Pandit And Citigroup Not Yet On Same Page Re: Who Dumped Whom; Zen Gardens That Never Were: Vikram Pandit Doesn’t Have To Put Up With This Shit Anymore

Bonus Watch '12: Retired Citigroup CEOs

Uncle Vik may or may not be getting a little something extra in his stocking, depending on how generous Citi is feeling. Vikram Pandit, who stepped down yesterday as Citigroup’s chief executive officer, stands to forfeit almost $33 million in cash and stock from a retention package unless the board gives him a payout to ease his exit. Citigroup formulated a plan last year that, based on the firm’s performance so far, would have given Pandit $19 million through a profit-sharing agreement, deferred stock now valued at $9 million and $4.6 million in options, according to the terms of a May 2011 regulatory filing and data compiled by Bloomberg. The plan required Pandit, 55, to be employed at the bank through various payment dates, most of which haven’t been reached. It’s typical for CEOs who resign to forfeit previously negotiated severance and to work out an alternative payout agreement with the board, said Steven Hall, managing director of Steven Hall & Partners, a New York-based executive compensation consulting firm. Pandit getting nothing would signal that “he stood up and said, ‘I’m resigning,’” Hall said. If he gets a payout, “then the question is, did they give him that in order to smooth the path to his resignation or termination? Or did they look at him and say, ‘You know what, you did a hell of a good job during a very, very rough time, we’d like to do something nice for you,’” Hall said. Pandit Could Forgo $33 Million as Exit Voids Retention Plan [Bloomberg]