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Some Citi staff in Asia are lamenting the disappearance of their preferred person

We suggested last week, in line with notoriously cynical banking analyst Mike Mayo, that Citi's restructuring and middle manager elimination have made it a nicer place to be. Various people at Citi in Asia have since contacted us, begging to disagree. 

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Stripping out five of Citi's 13 layers of management during the Bora Bora project has given Citi's people, "greater ownership, accountability and transparency” in the words of Mayo. It's also eliminated irrelevant internal meetings, in the words of Citi's head of corporate banking. However, some at Citi think that the managers who've gone are the wrong ones, and that the managers who've stayed are also the wrong ones and are flexing their new strength internally.

It's an opinion that's necessarily subjective, and that Citi is not commenting on. However, various people there point to one particular departing manager as having been popular: Kathleen Martin, who left in January.

Martin was Citi's US-based interim data transformation chair. She joined from JPMorgan in November 2021 and previously spent 11 years at Morgan Stanley as an MD and COO in enterprise and data services. As we reported last month, Martin has brought a lawsuit against Citi. She's arguing that she was unfairly ejected after she says she refused to comply to her boss's command that she tell Citi's board the bank had met its data governance goals, even though (she says) she hadn't. 

Citi is denying Martin's claim: a spokeswoman told Bloomberg that the “lawsuit is without merit, and we will vigorously defend against it.” Irrespective of the validity of her claim, though, Martin seems to have been popular internally: "Kathy knows what she is doing, and she helped Rob Casper set up the whole data foundation for Citi.  She is a person of integrity," says one Citi insider in Asia. Casper was Citi's New York based global transformation chair, who also joined from Morgan Stanley and who left in early 2023.

By comparison, Citi staff in Asia appear less keen on Anand Selvakesari, the Citi chief operating officer whom Martin accuses of asking her to present incorrect information to the board. Selvakesari has worked for Citi since 1991 when he joined in India. He was named COO in 2023. 

Alongside these gripes, which might be unfounded and simply the outcome of a reorganization which resulted in staff being let go, other Citi Asia people say what's really needed isn't more shakeups but managerial stability. "It's chaos, I've had five managers in 18 months," says one. Another says the reorganisation has been riven with political appointments and that even after the cuts, there's a lot of dead weight: "20% of people are productive, the rest don't know what they're doing." Remaining managers across the Asian bank are accused of "using this global reorg as a way to reorganize the ship to their preference."

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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