- Citigroup promoted Jane Fraser to president, the bank’s No. 2 job, according to a Thursday press release. That puts her in line to succeed CEO Michael Corbat, to potentially become the first woman to lead a large U.S. bank.
- Fraser will also become Citi’s global head of consumer banking. Stephen Bird, the Citi executive in charge of that arm, “has informed me of his decision to leave Citi to pursue an opportunity outside our firm,” Corbat wrote in the release. Bird last month was reported to be on the shortlist to become HSBC’s next CEO.
- Fraser, who has worked at Citi since 2004, served most recently as CEO of the bank’s Latin American operations. Fraser was seen this spring as a candidate for the recently filled top job at Wells Fargo.
Big banks in the U.S. have taken flak for their lack of diversity at the top. During an April hearing on Capitol Hill, Rep. Al Green, D-TX, asked a panel of seven bank CEOs, including Corbat, to raise their hands if they were not “white men.” After none raised a hand, Green asked if any of them believed they would be succeeded by a woman or a person of color, according to The Washington Post.
That same month, JPMorgan Chase shuffled its leadership to put two women on the path to a CEO job, naming Jennifer Piepszak as CFO and Marianne Lake as head of the bank’s consumer lending business.
As Citi’s top executive in Latin America, Scotland native Fraser, 52, grew revenue almost 8% despite shedding consumer businesses in Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, according to Bloomberg.
But her time in that role wasn’t always so smooth. "When I first was put in charge of Latin America, there was some pretty negative headlines in the press of Mexico about having a female foreigner with responsibility. And this was seen as a bit of an insult in Mexico," Fraser told CNN last year.
She helped win over her staff at her first town hall, speaking fluent Spanish, which she had learned on a trading floor in Madrid.
Fraser has deflected when asked about her chances to break banking’s glass ceiling. "I look forward to seeing a woman being the first CEO of a Wall Street firm whoever that may be," Fraser told CNN last year. "I've never had the ambition to be the CEO of Citi or any other organization. Things can change over time. But at the moment, I've still got a lot to learn."
Corbat praised her in Thursday’s press release. “In many ways, Jane helped shape the company we are today,” he wrote.
Fraser joined Citi as head of client strategy in 2004, according to her LinkedIn page, and has served as the top executive in several of the bank’s arms: private banking, mortgages and the U.S. consumer and commercial banking businesses. Prior to Citi, she spent 10 years as a partner at McKinsey & Co. and was an analyst at Goldman Sachs.
Fraser’s role leading consumer banking may be her toughest challenge yet. The unit has struggled to meet internal targets to capture more of its credit-card customers’ banking business, according to Bloomberg. Bird, the unit’s chief in 2018, was the only member of the management committee to receive “underperform” ratings in the proxy statement for the annual shareholder meeting.
But the potential in Fraser’s path to the top of Citi is clear, said Jeff Harte, an analyst at Sandler O’Neill. “It’s a training ground to see if she’s potentially the right person,” he said. “To name her president, both Corbat and the board must see her as the right person to be CEO, but this will be her chance to prove it and get trained."