Welcome to Citygroup

January 2, 2008

Nick Leong has a topical and interesting question relating to the recent financial crisis and its impact on Citigroup. He posted it on his own blog and didn’t get an answer, so he has placed the question here:

Hopefully, this will generate more response than it did on my blog. Caveat: This was post on my blog before Vikram Pandit was confirmed as the new CEO but the lingering question remains: how does one manage knowledge in such a behemoth?

Read on for his original blog

Consider this scenario:

Your company has 320,000 employees with offices spanning the globe. The business units are as diverse as the nationalities in an international school & operate independently of each other. As a matter of fact, they compete fiercely WITH each other. This was the result of mergers & acquisitions that failed to deliver on the promised synergies. The company has been underperforming compared to its industry peers. Over the past few years, the company had been battling regulatory blues – from losing its right to operate a highly lucrative business in Japan to an expensive class action suit. Your CEO just lost his job for not being able to get the team to march to the same beat & the company is deemed to be so ungovernable that even the former Treasury Secretary of the U.S. has declined to take up the job. What would you as the knowledge manager do?

Welcome to Citigroup.

Bear in mind that Citigroup’s business range from investment banking to retail banking to credit cards to brokerage to private banking to… ok, I think you probably get the idea by now.

The previous CEO, Sandy Weil, had clobbered together this businesses in the hope of building a financial hypermarket. But while Sandy was busy acquiring these businesses, he forgot to gel them together. Some reports cited diverse IT platforms as one of the key obstacles to producing the synergies needed. That means the banker at the branch probably had no idea that you are also a client of his company’s brokerage & insurance services as well.

I am interested to hear your opinions on how you would re-organise/restructure/rebuild the bank. Would you keep the financial hypermarket dream alive or do you think it is time to wake up to smell the break-up grim?

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