Citigroup, once the largest bank in America, has faced its fair share of challenges in recent years. From the collapse during the 2008 recession to continuous struggles with stock performance, the company has had to confront its shortcomings head-on.
Under the leadership of CEO Jane Fraser, Citigroup is finally turning a page in its journey towards improvement. The first step in this transformation is acknowledging the existing problems and taking decisive action. And that’s exactly what Citigroup is doing.
Simplifying Down and Focusing on Wealth Management
In April 2021, Jane Fraser announced a bold shift in Citigroup’s strategy. The company plans to exit 13 retail markets outside of the United States, redirecting its resources and attention to wealth management. This move is a tactical decision that other major banks have also adopted in recent years.
Wealth management is a lucrative business, and Citigroup aims to capitalize on it. By catering to affluent clients, offering financial advice, and managing their assets, the bank can generate a steady stream of earnings. This strategy also presents growth opportunities, particularly in regions like Asia and the Middle East, where wealth generation is still in its early stages.
The Road to Simplicity
One of the driving forces behind Citigroup’s transformation is the need to simplify its business. By reducing its global footprint and focusing on specific markets, the bank can achieve better critical mass and lower capital requirements. The goal is to become less complex and more efficient.
Interestingly, as Citigroup moves towards simplicity, it is reminiscent of the company before its merger from 25 years ago. Citigroup’s history dates back to 1812 when the National City Bank was established. Over time, the bank grew through mergers and acquisitions, eventually becoming Citibank. The merger between Citicorp and Travelers Group in the 1990s created the Citigroup we know today—a financial supermarket catering to various financial needs.
Challenges and Potential
While Citigroup’s shift towards wealth management shows promise, challenges lie ahead. The company needs to rebuild its wealth management business, which it had to sell off during the financial crisis. Competitors like Morgan Stanley now dominate this space, making it essential for Citigroup to regain its standing.
Sustainable growth is the key for Citigroup’s success. The company’s investment in wealth management is aimed at achieving high single-digit to low double-digit revenue growth. However, recent reports indicate a decline in wealth management revenue, partly due to the weak investment banking market and ongoing divestitures. Only time will tell if Citigroup’s strategy will pay off in the long run.
The Way Forward
Recognizing the need for change is crucial for any organization’s improvement. Citigroup has begun the process of divesting operations outside of the United States, investing in its winners, and transforming its business. While the road has been longer than expected, Citigroup has the potential to deliver rising returns on equity, ultimately regaining its market standing.
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Disclaimer: This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. Please consult with a professional financial advisor before making any investment decisions.