The Citi That Never Sleeps
Citigroup is accustomed to making headlines. From forming through one of the world’s largest mergers in history, to the Sandy Weill era, to peaking just before the 2008 financial crisis, life at Citi is always interesting.
The leading global bank has around 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides a broad range of banking services and financial products to consumers, corporations, governments, and institutions. In our years working with them, Citigroup experienced a massive growth, all from acquisitions. As a result, there was little to no integration across departments and branches. Work Effects focused on executive development to get Citi’s leadership and culture right on the money.
As Citi continued to acquire numerous companies, they continued to operate as numerous companies. The wide variety of business lines and units, silos, and customer bases created an inconsistent approach to managing a global business. Additionally, cost structures and expenses were not considered huge priorities because they were more focused on their exponential growth.
However, the economic downturn in the early 2000s caused this focus to shift. Breeding fierce competition, employees pressured themselves and others to meet numbers. As a result, they often took short cuts that led to legal trouble. The VP of Citigroup Executive Development commented, “Even a town of 15,000 people has a jail.” That mentality fostered a toxic environment.
Work Effects Solution
We began our work with Citi by collaborating with their Executive Development group to adopt a more balanced management philosophy; one that focuses not only on what results a leader delivers, but also how he or she delivers them [Exhibit A]. Beginning with the organization’s top 400 leadership roles, we focused on creating “One Citi” that unifies 300,000 employees across 100+ countries. We first worked with these leaders to redefine the impact that they should be having in their existing roles. To create an integrated, global business, would require more strategic thinking, greater collaboration, and stronger relationships across the organization. We then cascaded our work to the group of 1,800 senior leaders, all running multi-billion dollar business units. These leaders provided better insights for breaking down silos and creating mobile talent, and prepared to start integrating acquisitions. In the midst of establishing these more effective business practices, the 2008 financial crisis struck. This monumental event caused Citi to accelerate their cost cutting moves and institute its new integration practices immediately. In addition, they took measures to eliminate any program silos that would inhibit financial performance or progress.
We helped Citi implement a global solution while remaining locally relevant. The different cultural beliefs of the businesses in 97 countries maintained their personality, but 70% was streamlined to the global approach. We have continued to support Citi in the full program development of the Leadership Center of Excellence. Citi is now an organization without almost any silos; there’s a much more balanced approach between the “what” and the “how.” Focus is still on numbers but the style of leadership has become far more collaborative and supportive. An 80% increase in evaluation occurred as they formed a more centralized way of operating. They have decreased costs, and fostered fundamental practices such as polishing how leaders need to lead during crisis. Utilizing the 4R model™, the Check-Up 360™, and array of technology solutions, we are now Citi’s exclusive provider of such services. We are fortunate to be the sole provider of integrated leadership solutions for Citi’s top 30,000 leaders. Citi is our longest tenured client, and our work together has helped them become the leading global bank serving millions of customers worldwide.