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Citigroup’s Pandit spams the globe

Citigroup’s Pandit spams the globe
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First Published: Sun, May 18 2008. 10 32 PM IST
Updated: Sun, May 18 2008. 10 32 PM IST
The Citigroup Inc. chief, Vikram Pandit, has been bombarding many of the bank’s 200 million clients with a pep-talk email about the ailing firm’s ambitions.
The mass email is to let them know “about the bold steps we are taking at Citi to be the premier, global, fully integrated financial services firm”. The email was a tad light on detail, so breakingviews has penned how we think his first draft might have read before his marketing team cleaned it up.
Dear CITIGROUP CUSTOMER
No, please, please don’t delete this! I know this looks like spam—or some type of phishing scam. But I really am the big cheese at Citigroup, and I really do have something important to say to you. Honest. I am sure that you are sick of hearing about the tens of billions of dollars Citi has lost, and how we should break up the bank. I know I am! So I thought I should do my best to convince you that we’re not in a hole and that you shouldn’t take all your cash across the street to our better-performing rivals like JP Morgan Chase and Co., or Wells Fargo and Co. Or Deutsche Bank AG. Or Lloyds TSB. Or Westpac Banking Corp. Or ING Groep NV. Because we at Citi are still very much in the game. I mean, we’re just so big, which gives us enduring strength—though I grant you, to say that way we did have to go cap in hand to find $40 billion (Rs1.6 trillion) of expensive new capital, much of which diluted our existing, long-suffering shareholders. Which does rather undermine my point about strength being enduring, but at least we got the money, right? So what am I doing to make sure that you keep your money with us? Well, I am reorganizing the bank!
Yes, I know, this is the umpteenth time Citi’s done this, but it’s my first one as boss, and I am going to work tirelessly to make sure I don’t have to do it again. I have also created some new roles, like head of talent and head of innovation. Now, I know what you’re thinking: how on earth does that make it easier for me to move cash around, set up a local account if I move abroad, or just get my cheques cleared more quickly? Well, it won’t—American banks just aren’t good at that stuff. But don’t those titles sound cool?
And hey, we’re Citi! We’re too big to fail! So stick with us. We need you. Your deposits are by far the cheapest form of funding we have—it’s one of the few advantages we had when putting on all those big complex trades we didn’t understand. But that was before my time, so rest assured I won’t let that happen again. Trust me, I’m an investment banker.
Phew! I’ve been up all week writing these to our 200 million or so clients. Maybe I shouldn’t have revived our “Citi never sleeps” motto. I need some shut-eye!
Sincerely
Vikram Pandit
CEO, Citi
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First Published: Sun, May 18 2008. 10 32 PM IST