Citi Merges Wealth Businesses Into Unit Led by Jim O’Donnell

Citigroup Inc. is combining its consumer wealth-management and private-banking units, putting a single executive atop operations handling money for clients with $200,000 to tens of millions, or much more.

The new business will be called Citi Global Wealth and led by Jim O’Donnell, according to a memo to staff Wednesday from Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat and President Jane Fraser. O’Donnell will report jointly to Anand Selva and Paco Ybarra, who lead the firm’s global consumer bank and institutional clients group, respectively.

Citi Merges Wealth Businesses Into Unit Led by Jim O’Donnell

“We are going to put the full force of the firm behind this effort to create a single, integrated platform that will serve clients from the affluent level all the way through to ultra-high-net-worth individuals and households,” Corbat and Fraser said in the memo.

The new group formalizes an idea Fraser has been signaling since Citigroup announced plans last year to make her CEO in February. In an interview with Bloomberg published in November, Fraser said the bank aims to offer wealth services to entrepreneurs it caters to in its commercial banking arm -- potentially guiding the growth of their finances.

“That’s often where the source of a lot of the wealth is being created -- in those commercial bank relationships,” Fraser said at the time. “As we look at wealth, we see this as an opportunity to bring the consumer and the institutional business together in this space over the next few years. That’s an area that we think is underappreciated.”

A two-decade veteran of the firm, O’Donnell spent the past 13 years overseeing the distribution of Citigroup’s trading products to equities and fixed-income clients as head of investor sales and relationship management. He previously spent four years overseeing the U.S. equities business.

The new role puts him atop offerings like Citigold, where clients have to maintain a balance of $200,000 in certain accounts to remain eligible, and the private bank, which caters to a quarter of the world’s billionaires. The bank expects him to spend his first few months developing strategy.

“Jim brings a winning mindset and track record to his new role,” Corbat and Fraser said in the memo. “Under his leadership during the last 10 years, we have become the No. 1 markets sales force.”

With this latest push, Fraser is taking a page from Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, who’s seen his firm’s wealth management revenue balloon in recent years. Citigroup has lagged behind wealth management competitors since selling Smith Barney operations to Morgan Stanley in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

But unlike rivals including Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. that have large asset management arms creating products for armies of financial advisers, Citigroup said it will source offerings from partners.

“Making wealth management a key differentiator and source of enhanced returns for Citi will be an important element of our strategy,” Fraser and Corbat said.

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