In a move that took analysts and investors by surprise, Citigroup’s top boss Vikram Pandit has resigned, effective immediately.
Pandit has been five years in that job, guiding the third-biggest US bank in terms of assets through the financial crisis.
He will be succeeded by Michael Corbat, previously Citi’s chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Chief Operating Officer John Havens, a long-time associate of Pandit, also resigned.
The shock change comes just one day after Citi’s surprisingly strong quarterly results.
Investors questioned why Pandit would leave now after keeping the bank afloat during the financial crisis and getting it back on a firmer footing.
“I would have expected he wanted to stay around and see some of the fruits of his labours there,” said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer of Oakbrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.
Some also expressed surprise at the timing of the announcement, asking why it was not made at the same time as the results were released.
Pandit’s resignation revived questions that were asked from the day he took the job: whether he had the right experience to lead Citigroup in the first place.
Born in Nagpur, India, the 55-year-old Pandit obtained two electrical engineering degrees and a doctorate in finance from Columbia University. He joined Citigroup in July 2007 when the bank acquired his hedge fund and private equity firm, Old Lane Partners, for $800 million.
Citigroup had to shut down Old Lane the next summer, an early black mark for the executive.
Critics later charged that Pandit was too timid, perhaps even too academic, to run a big consumer bank.
“He was not beloved by Wall Street. He was thrust into that position – he’s a hedge fund guy,” McCormick said.
His successor, Corbat, has held a number of senior roles at Citigroup, including running Citi Holdings, the unit established to house businesses and assets the company wants to shed.
A fixed income salesman by training, Corbat started out at Solomon Brothers in 1983. More recently, he has been credited with successfully restructuring some of Citigroup’s consumer and credit card units.
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