Here's something sent in by a Citi staffer:
'The news flew around the office in London - 'Vikram had resigned; and he was leaving today!'
What the Hell was going on ? And then the rumours started - the Board had asked him to leave because they no longer believed in him; he had told the Board to 'stick it' after a row about strategy; a rogue trader had been uncovered; they found out that the 'good' bank was far worse than the 'bad' one, etc.
By the end of the day, though, with messages from both Pandit and our new CEO (Mike Corbat) we were reassured that, although there had clearly been a bust-up, it was nothing more than that. But then we got thinking about the implications of the change at the top for our business units (Institutional Clients).
Vikram Pandit was a decent guy. Thoughful, a person of great integrity and a real company man. But most importantly, he undertood our business - he had 12 years with Morgan Stanley before he went on to found his hedge fund, Old Lane Partners. He understood the need for a strong investment bank to support our global institutional client base, and he was tuned in to the important role we play within the firm.
Now, of course, many feel that investment banking is going through a period of structural change - and, if that turns out to be the case, that will impact the whole industry, not just Citi.
But I just hope our new leadership won't rush to make changes for changes sake. Mike Corbat has already said that he will be reviewing our businesses and leadership teams over the coming weeks, and I hope that he doesn't pander to those critics (some of whom might even be on our own board) who feel that Citigroup needs to revert to being Citibank - a commercial bank with little in the way of wholesale activities. Going back for the future is no longer an option, as the financial markets have evolved over the last 15 years, and although returning to 'boring banking' is a good soundbite, it will achieve nothing save but to marginalize the firm even further.
Citi, they say, is in good hands now - but they said that a few years back when they appointed Chuck Prince CEO. Then came Vikram Pandit, who did an incredibly difficult job extremely well. Now our board clearly thinks its knows better and we have a new CEO. We can only hope that he, and the board, really do know what they are doing.
In Vikram we did trust'.
image: © Dan Phiffer