Citi rushes to replace Corbat in EMEA top job

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Published October 17, 2012

| Reuters

Citigroup's new boss Mike Corbat is rushing to plug the gap he left at the helm of the U.S. bank's European business, a major hub for investment banking income but which still lags other regions by revenue.

The U.S. bank has been pushing to recover market share in Europe, the Middle East and Africa under Corbat's tenure as chief executive for the region in the past year. Corbat was propelled to the top job at Citi on Tuesday after Vikram Pandit suddenly quit.

Citi could outline its plan for the European leadership as early as Wednesday or Thursday, two Citi insiders said.

It is unclear, however, whether the bank will opt for an interim boss to give Corbat time to map out broader management changes, or make an immediate appointment.

One of the strongest contenders is Jim Cowles, the former head of markets in the region promoted under Corbat to chief operating officer for EMEA in February.

Cowles, who is also in charge of Western Europe, would be one of the natural successors to Corbat, three people familiar with the matter said - unless he follows Corbat to another role.

John Havens, Citi's global chief operating officer, also resigned on Tuesday.

Corbat, who had previously run Citi Holdings, the unit housing businesses and assets the bank wants to shed, had taken a hands-on approach in his EMEA job - a manager role that involves liaising with regulators rather than directly talking to clients.

He divided the EMEA region into four clusters, split by sub-regions, and reinforced some senior investment banking roles, naming James Bardrick and Manuel Falco as corporate and investment banking heads.

Some of the top regional managers or investment bankers could also be contenders for the senior EMEA job, though Citi insiders added that Corbat could prefer to turn to someone he knows from further back, such as former colleagues from Citi Holdings.

Some experience of investment banking is likely to be a key attribute for the job, despite the view among some insiders that Corbat's solid track record in the corporate and commercial parts of the bank might herald plans to tone down riskier parts of the business.

Securities and banking is EMEA's biggest revenue-driver. In the third quarter this area brought in more revenue than the equivalent investment banking unit in the United States, despite the euro zone woes that have bogged down business in the region.

But despite efforts to grow again in areas such as debt capital markets, where the bank lost ground in EMEA after it was crippled by huge losses in the 2008 financial crisis, Citi slipped behind EMEA rivals by investment banking fees in the first nine months of the year.

It is now in tenth place, well below U.S. rival JPMorgan , the leader in EMEA, Thomson Reuters data shows.

Part of the overhaul of Citi's investment bank has included drastically reducing its reach by cutting its 40,000 client list to focus more closely on 5,000 clients globally, with an even smaller portion designated as core.

The bank has also cut several hundred investment banking jobs, including in a big round last December.

But EMEA lags other regions in businesses that are key for Citi, however, especially in consumer banking, where revenues are well behind Latin America and Asia. (Additional by Dinesh Nair in Dubai; Editing by Peter Graff)

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