Citigroup (C) is creating a unified global banking group? This is almost a joke – talk about anti-climactic and too little/too late. I wrote about this very issue two years ago when I did a compare/contrast of Citigroup and Deutsche Bank, my two former employers. One of the most destructive features of the Citicorp/Travelers merger was that nobody in power wanted to make a hard decision, especially as it related to integrating the banking franchises. Instead, senior management (of Travelers, who had the keys to the car) let deception, politics and in-fighting take its toll. Many great people left, clients were often confused, and product people we left to either ignore the situation entirely or to get embroiled in a popularity contest between the RM (the legacy Citibank Relationship Manager) and the IB (the Salomon Investment Banker). It was the antithesis of customer-centricity.
This was what I said in my original post:
Illusions of equality and fairness. Duplicate functions were preserved on the relationship side, with Citi commercial bankers and Salomon investment bankers covering the same accounts. There was supposed to be transparency, sharing, etc. Bullshit. It was a confusing, painful mess, especially for the Citi bankers who were relegated to second-class status and the Citi product people, who had once ruled the roost (and who were loved by the bankers who made lots of money by supporting their efforts). This duplication carried on for years and years, long after my run at Citi had ended. It would have been better, in my opinion, to make the hard and painful changes upfront, get everybody in banking and the products following the same strategic plan and GET AFTER IT. Otherwise, immense time is wasted on internal politics, positioning, and basically a whole lot of non-revenue generating activities. Life is too short and shareholders can’t wait. Get on with it.
Well, they didn’t like my thoughts ten years ago and they blew me off two years ago, but now it’s big news. Yawn. I guess they figure it’s best to make changes when no business is getting done so they don’t look like fools if it flops. Citigroup is still a very large, very political place. It will be interesting to see if the integration holds. Think the Hatfields (RMs) and the McCoys (IBs). Or perhaps the Israelis and the Palestinians. It may be that the embedded cultural differences and historic grudges and injustices are simply too great to be overcome, leaving them with a clear option: wipe out all who can’t (or won’t) be team players, regardless of performance. Negativity (as opposed to constructive disagreement) is a cancer that can’t be allowed to remain in a body, in a company, in an organization of any kind. After a decade of never-ending battles, the time has come for Citigroup senior management to finally take a stand. Saying you’re merging the org chart is one thing: effecting cultural change is another. Eye on the ball, guys. It’s too late for window dressing. Either make it work or force out the non-team players. Because enough is enough.