Citigroup Inc.'s corner-turning first-quarter performance reflected more than just a boffo bond trading business and a well-timed economic recovery in overseas markets.

The best showing for Citi [C] in 11 quarters also validated Chief Executive Vikram Pandit's decision more than a year ago to split Citi into a good bank and a bad bank, a strategy that has helped keep the company's trouble spots from muddying the focus on healthier businesses, while giving executives breathing room as they try to figure out the best ways to dispose of unwanted assets.

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