Remarks by CEO Jane Fraser at Citi's 2021 Annual Meeting

April 27, 2021
Jane Fraser, Chief Executive Officer, Citi

Thank you, John, and welcome to all our fellow shareholders who have joined us today. I very much look forward to sharing my thoughts about Citi’s recent performance and where we are headed.

But first, I want to thank John Dugan and the rest of the board for putting their trust in me to lead this important global institution.

And I also want to thank my predecessor, Mike Corbat, for the gift of a smooth transition, which afforded me time to reflect with fresh eyes on our firm and to solicit input from many of our stakeholders, including a number of you.

I’m excited about Citi’s future. We have many attributes as a bank that distinguish us—our global mindset… our ability to anticipate where our industry is heading… our empathy, which gives us deeper insight into our clients.

And we are determined to leverage these advantages to close the gap with our peers and improve returns for our shareholders.

Over the course of its 200-plus-year history Citi has overcome many challenges, but it is fair to say that 2020 tested us like never before.

And it is a testament to Citi’s disciplined management that we have not only navigated the pandemic but served as a source of strength for our clients, communities, and colleagues.

At the onset of the pandemic, we undertook a massive effort to ensure our people were safe and we got nearly 200,000 of them up and running remotely from their homes.

We provided special compensation to more than 75,000 of our colleagues to ease their financial burden.

And we offered childcare options and enhanced educational and health resources to help them manage the stresses of the pandemic world and, thereby, enable them to focus on our customers and our clients.

I’ll always be proud that we were the first bank in the U.S. to provide relief programs for our credit card and mortgage customers.

Although Citi historically has not been a large lender to small businesses, we have so far funded loans totaling $5.1 billion as part of the U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program. On average, these small businesses have fewer than 10 employees.

On the institutional side, we’ve helped our clients contend with volatile markets, reconfigure supply chains and access short- and long-term liquidity.

And because we take very seriously our responsibility to our communities, we have supported front-line health workers and deployed other resources to help drive the recovery of local economies.

More than anything, 2020 demonstrated the value of our diversified and durable business model. Even with the uncertainty and volatility created by the pandemic, we were able to keep revenues in 2020 equal to the banner year of 2019.

For the year, we earned $11 billion of net income on revenues of $74 billion, despite the roughly $10 billion increase we took in credit reserves as a result of the pandemic and the impact of new accounting standards.

Even after meeting the needs of our clients, we ended the year very well capitalized. This allowed us to resume the repurchase of common stock, which we had voluntarily paused at the onset of the pandemic.

In the first quarter of 2021, our financial performance was better than expected. We reported earnings of $3.62 per share on $7.9 billion in net income—that’s a record for net income in a quarter.

Driving these results were a couple of factors.

Number one was strong performance by our Institutional Clients Group, including a record quarter for Investment banking, which saw a veritable flurry of activity in equity underwriting.

We also benefitted from active fixed income and equity markets.

The second big factor was that, in response to a stronger economic outlook, we were able to release $3.9 billion of the credit reserves we had set aside.

After a long and challenging year in 2020, we are pretty optimistic about the macro environment and recovery ahead of us. We are seeing that reflected in the financial health of consumers, who are saving more and carrying lower credit card balances.

Now of course, lower loan demand put pressure on revenues in our Global Consumer Bank, which were down quarter-over-quarter. But we still experienced strong growth in our wealth segment and in digital engagement, both of which are central to the consumer franchise we are building.

The global health crisis has also been a chance for us to remind the world of the role that Citi has embraced to tackle some of society’s longstanding challenges.

We don’t do these things because they might make us look good. They are embedded in our day-to-day business and they are central to our mission of enabling growth and driving economic progress.

Case in point is Citi’s leadership in sustainability.

Last month, on my first day as CEO, I committed Citi to net zero emissions by the year 2050. Now, this is an ambitious target because it means not only addressing the emissions from our own operations, but also those produced by our customer and client portfolio.

Citi is one of the biggest financiers of fossil fuel, and in my short time as CEO, I’ve fielded some tough questions about that. But I want to make clear that we understand the responsibility we have.

We know that to truly fight climate change, these industries—our clients—will need to join us in transitioning to net zero. And as I said on my first very day, we are committed to working relentlessly with our clients to help them get there.

To that end, we are also extending our current environmental finance target from $250 billion by 2025 to $500 billion by 2030.

That combined with investments in affordable housing, health care, workforce development amongst other areas, means that we have now committed $1 trillion in sustainable finance by 2030 to help advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

We also continue to take meaningful actions to confront systemic inequity in our communities all over the world.

In the U.S., in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and in response to nationwide calls for social justice, we launched Action for Racial Equity, which encompasses $1 billion in strategic actions to help close the racial wealth gap.

As we announced just yesterday, we are already making meaningful progress—including investments in minority-owned depository institutions to strengthen community banking, investments in minority-owned housing developers to build affordable housing, and a partnership with the National Urban League to expand access to Citibank’s no-fee banking account product.

Underpinning our work to promote racial equity is a commitment for us to understand what it takes to be an anti-racist institution and making sure we maintain a culture that not only reflects but also cherishes the diversity of the communities we serve.

I could not be more proud of what Citi has achieved over the past year. But of course, there is much more to do.

Since becoming CEO, in addition to continuing to support our clients and colleagues through the pandemic, I’ve focused on two priorities to improve Citi’s competiveness.

First, we are taking a dispassionate look at our global franchise and refreshing our strategy for closing the returns gap with our peers.

Central to our thinking is assessing which businesses can retain or secure leading positions and then making sure we direct the right resources to these higher-returning businesses.

I also see opportunities to improve our service to clients by being simpler and by establishing greater connectivity and synergies across our businesses.

Consistent with these principles, we are building an industry-leading wealth management platform to capitalize on the extraordinary wealth creation we are seeing in the U.S. and particularly in Asia.

In Asia and EMEA, we have decided to focus our consumer banking business on the wealth segment.

We will operate this business through a network anchored by four wealth hubs in Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE and London. And to best play to our strengths, we decided that we are exiting 13 consumer franchises in the two regions.

This shift positions us to capture the full spectrum of the wealth opportunity in Asia and EMEA, whilst maximizing synergies with our leading institutional franchise in Asia.

My second priority is our transformation program, which is addressing deficiencies outlined in consent orders issued last year, but it’s also ensuring we are investing in and modernizing our infrastructure.

Make no mistake about it, we want nothing less than to achieve a state of excellence in our risk and control environment, in our operations and in our service to clients.

And to that end, we are investing in our talent, we’re building a culture of accountability, and we’re implementing a new strategy to extract the maximum value from the data we have and work with as a global bank.

But this transformation isn’t solely about responding to our regulators, because I have no doubt the investments we are making will modernize the bank and drive higher returns for our shareholders.

We will continue to share information as we make decisions about our transformation program and our ongoing strategy refresh.

And we feel good about the path we are on and the opportunities ahead.

We are confident in our efforts to grow our company’s earnings and to close the returns gap with our peers.

And we are excited to build on our longstanding commitment to our communities and continue our leadership in sustainability, equity and enabling progress.

So thank you for this opportunity to share these thoughts with you. And John and I very much look forward to answering your questions later on in the meeting.

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