So with that potential good news/bad news outlook, what can the current advisor force expect from the changes in the C-suite?
In all likelihood, not much.
While many in the business and media worlds spent much of the day digesting the surprising news that Vikram Pandit stepped down as Citigroup’s CEO and asking each other what it means, the bank’s advisor force is not likely to see substantive changes, according to several outside observers. The bank did not respond to requests for comment.
Earlier this year, Citi told Bank Investment Consultant it had about 500 total advisors, including the 200 in its high-end Citigold offering. And it had plans to hire an additional 300. At those levels, in terms of head count, it is still comparable to a regional brokerage and the prevailing thought is that it’s just too small to be on the short-list of potential changes.
Even more to the point, the bank’s wealth management division had been going through changes already, and most observers believe it is on a good track. Namely, after a couple of restructurings over the past year, it is now following a traditional bank channel offering: cross selling and a push to fee-based planning business. Indeed, earlier this year, Venu Krishnamurthy, president of Citigold, told Bank Investment Consultant that he wants attract new advisors who feel that Citi is the "best place to grow their practices.”
One challenge that remains for Citi, as well as other banks, is attracting the right advisors, says Sophie Schmitt, senior analyst in the wealth management group of Aite Group. It’s not the same environment as a wirehouse and it’s not necessarily the same skill set that’s required for an advisor to succeed, she said. Another issue, she noted, is the perception that bank advisors aren’t as skilled as those at the wirehouses.
Another market observer said that Citi’s advisors are in the same boat as everyone else. That is, they’re probably wondering why Pandit stepped down so quickly. But even if they feel alarmed, they won’t likely see significant changes, he said.
Citi’s board of directors announced today that Pandit was stepping down and that company veteran Michael Corbat would succeed him. Corbat has been at Citi for 30 years and most recently ran Citigroup’s Europe, Middle East and Africa business.
The management shake-up came one day after Citi announced stronger-than-expected earnings. Even after excluding one-time losses, the bank posted earnings of $1.06 per share, higher than the 96 cents per share that had been expected, according to published reports.