Since his unceremonious departure from Citigroup five-and-a-half years ago, Vikram Pandit has had a lot of free time on his hands. And he has filled it! “I can choose how I spend my time, but I still tend to spend it all,” Uncle Vik assures in a “where-are-they-now”-style profile in Financial News. He’s toyed around with a return to the hedge-fund world and getting into private equity, taken a flier on financial services in his native land, advised on how not to hire people like himself and how not to drive a company's reputation into the ditch from experience, invented an acronym that’s gone nowhere, and regretted ever taking that awful job at Citi in the first place. But all of that—well, except for the weird social-media-related acronym—is the past, and the future is plastics. No, wait, it’s fintech. Sorry.
The central premise of his fintech-oriented investment firm Orogen Group, is working out how to profit from the “transition of a 20th century financial system towards a 21st century technological architecture”….
Pandit rattles off additional parts of finance that he believes are ripe for disruption: insurance, asset management, wealth management, retail banking and bond trading. Even investment banking, largely reliant on the relationships of dealmakers, has aspects that are potential targets for the robots, he says, adding that the grunt work done by junior bankers should be automated….
“There will be a steady shift towards smaller players as they have the same power the larger banks have had historically because of their army of analysts,” he says.
“AI [artificial intelligence], machine learning and robotics is really going to empower smaller institutions to have the same implicit scale that the larger players have had.”
Anywho, since no one really cares what Count Vikula has to say about fintech, let’s get back to the regrets part, of which he has none.
Reflecting on his time leading Citi in the face of an existential threat, Pandit says he has “no regrets”….
OK, well, maybe just one. Because as happy as Vickles was to voluntarily hand in his resignation the day after a surprisingly decent earnings report, having only recently rediscovered that jolly spring in his step, he’d really have liked a bit of a victory lap, perhaps around a new Zen garden, longer than a dozen hours or so, in any event enough time to get on the same page with the guy not-firing him about how to portray his not-firing firing. Really, if you think about it, he is the Winston Churchill of the financial crisis.
“In the lifecycle of countries or companies, there’s war time and there’s peace time. It felt to me like my five years were war time and peace was upon us,” he adds. “I do think it was time for change, although I wouldn’t have elected to make that change as abruptly as it happened.”