Business As Usual: Citigroup Makes History with First Woman CEO

Richard Falvo, Maroon-News Staff

Citigroup, the American multinational investment bank, made history last week after announcing that Jane Fraser will become the firm’s next chief executive, making her the first woman to lead a big bank in the history of Wall Street. Formerly the president of the firm, Fraser will replace Michael Corbat as chief executive come February. In a press release from Sept. 10, Citigroup confirmed the historic decision to the public.

“Citi CEO Michael Corbat today announced that, after 37 years at Citi, including the last eight years as CEO, he plans to retire from Citi and step down from its Board of Directors in February of 2021. The Board of Directors selected Jane Fraser, currently Citi’s President and CEO of Global Consumer Banking, to succeed him as CEO in February, and she has been elected to the Board of Directors with service beginning immediately,” according to the press release.  

When Fraser officially takes command of the investment bank early next year, she will stand alone as the sole female leader in the corporate bank landscape. There are currently no other female chief executives in the ten largest U.S. banks, with only 31 women holding the position of chief executive among the 500 American corporations that make up the S&P 500, one of the most prominent and heavily-traded equity indexes in the world. Further, a Nov. 2019 study conducted by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman found that women accounted for just 26 percent of all senior U.S. financial services executives last year, which marks an increase of six percentage points from 2016.

Fraser’s reputation and track record makes her well-suited for the role of chief executive. After beginning her career in 1988 as a mergers and acquisitions analyst at Goldman Sachs in London, Fraser enrolled at Harvard Business School in 1992, earning her MBA two years later. Shortly after, she joined the financial services and global strategy departments at McKinsey & Company, where she would eventually become a partner.

Fraser joined Citigroup in 2004, first as Head of Client Strategy in the firm’s investment and global banking division. In Oct. 2007, she was promoted to Global Head of Strategy and Mergers and Acquisitions. Two years later, Fraser was promoted to chief executive of Citi Private Bank, a subsidiary of Citigroup that serves the private banking needs of individuals with a net worth of at least 25 million USD. It is worth noting that when she was promoted to this particular position, Citi Private Bank was running an annual deficit of around 250 million USD. By the time Fraser’s tenure as chief executive came to an end 2013, the bank had returned to posting an annual financial surplus. In other words, the bank went from losing almost one quarter of a billion dollars to turning a profit in less than four years with Fraser in command.

Following numerous other promotions, Fraser was eventually appointed President of Citigroup and Head of Global Consumer Banking in Oct. 2019.

As a product of her impressive career advancements, Fraser has been recognized on several occasions in the media. In 2015, Fortune ranked Fraser number 41 on its annual list of the “51 Most Powerful Women in Business.” In addition, in 2014 and 2015, American Banker named Fraser the “Number 1 Woman to Watch.”

Although the new role will bring about unique challenges to overcome, Fraser herself is looking forward to facing the task head-on.

“I will do everything I can to make all of our stakeholders proud of our firm as we continue to build a better bank and improve our returns. We will invest in our infrastructure, risk management and controls to ensure that we operate in a safe and sound manner and serve our clients and customers with excellence. Citi is an incredible institution with a proud history and a bright future. I am excited to join with my colleagues in writing the next chapter,” Fraser said.