Singapore is important hub for Citi, says its incoming CEO

Tue, Dec 08, 2020 – 5:34 PM

SINGAPORE remains an important hub for Citigroup, with the major US bank to open the world’s largest wealth advisory hub in the Republic this month, said the incoming global chief executive officer of Citi, Jane Fraser.

“That wasn’t a particularly hard decision, I have to say,” she said in a virtual discussion on the programme of the Singapore FinTech Festival x Singapore Week of Innovation & TeCHnology (SFF x SWITCH), when asked on the decision to open this centre in Singapore.

Citi Wealth Hub at 268 Orchard will occupy an area of 30,000 sq ft across four floors in the heart of Singapore’s shopping belt.

In her previous role as head of global private banking, one of the very first trips she made was to Singapore, Ms Fraser recalled.

“It’s very important for a wealth centre to be one that is truly trusted, and trusted by all the stakeholders. It is one that a client feels security in placing their wealth, that there are opportunities for a diverse and strong capital market in which they have confidence.” She also cited having the right talent and guardrails as important factors.

“Singapore provides that,” she said, identifying wealth creation in Asia as one of the big “unstoppable forces” over the next decade.

Singapore is also celebrated as a hub of innovation, she noted: “I think Singapore’s ability to continuously reinvent itself is one of the great legacies of the country. And in a world where we all have to keep reinventing ourselves at high speed, Singapore is a place you have to be.”

Ms Fraser, who will make history as the first woman to run a major Wall Street bank, also retold how she had developed her career on the advice of former Citi boss Vikram Pandit, by gathering experiences from running businesses that were not “necessarily logical to most people’s thinking”.

Going through business units ranging from private banking to the mortgage business amid the sub-prime crisis equipped her with the skills to put her in the top seat.

She recalled how Mr Pandit “basically tore up” her career development plan that he had asked her to prepare. “He said ‘you’re thinking about this all wrong…you’ve got to think about how you collect and gather the experiences that will make you successful in the role, not the experiences that will get you to the role’,” she said. “That was a game-changing piece of advice for me, because then I started doing completely different jobs.”

On the topic of women leadership and of “women having it all”, Ms Fraser noted earlier that “it’s not that women can’t have it all, they just can’t have it all at the same time”.

She said that it was her choice to work part-time when she was a partner at management consultancy McKinsey, to spend time with her two sons, who were then young.

“One piece of advice that I got from a mentor of mine fairly early on is: ‘Why are you in such a hurry? Your career is going to be measured in decades, and you’re probably going to have many careers in your life. So make sure that you really enjoy each period of your life, make the most of it, and don’t try to achieve everything at the same time and put so much pressure on yourself’,” she said.

“I remember another comment made when I came back from maternity leave – that I was no longer this machine-like analyst who was trying to crunch all the numbers and get everything right. The client said: ‘We like you a lot better… you’re more focused on 80/20, you’re a more empathetic person, we can relate to you better’. And that reminded me that you have to be a whole human being.”

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