Citibank names Jane Fraser as next CEO, first woman to hold top job at major U.S. bank

Citibank has named Jane Fraser to be its next CEO, the first woman to hold the top job at a major bank on Wall Street.

CEO Michael Corbat to step down as of next year

Jane Fraser will become the first woman to be CEO at a major U.S. bank when she ascends to the top job at Citi next year. (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg)

Citibank has named Jane Fraser to be its next CEO, the first woman to hold the top job at a major bank on Wall Street.

The U.S. bank said Thursday that current CEO Michael Corbat will retire in February. And Citi has named Jane Fraser, the current head of the bank's consumer unit, to replace him.

Corbat, who has been with Citi for 37 years including the last eight as CEO, was one of seven bank CEOs who testified to the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee last year on proposed changes to bank regulations.

In one high profile exchange, Democratic lawmaker Al Green of Texas asked the all-white and all-male panel of CEOs if they thought a woman or a person of colour would succeed them. None of the bank CEOs said they thought that would happen.

Fraser has been with the bank for the last 16 years, and was named the bank's president last year, fuelling speculation that she may be on deck for the CEO job, since the two titles are often held by the same person.

"I have worked with Jane for many years and am proud to have her succeed me," Corbat said. "With her leadership, experience and values, I know she will make an outstanding CEO."

John Dugan, the chair of the bank's board of directors, was just as effusive. "We believe Jane is the right person to build on Mike's record and take Citi to the next level. She has deep experience across our lines of business and regions and we are highly confident in her. Jane's ability to think strategically and also operate a business are a unique combination that will serve our company well."

The 53-year-old Fraser has degrees from Cambridge and Harvard, and prior to becoming president, she had senior roles with the bank's Latin American unit, the mortgage division, and a stint in mergers and acquisitions.

JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon has had women as his second-in-command for years, but shows no signs of stepping down from the CEO role.

No woman has thus far ever held the top job at any of Canada's five big banks, although two smaller ones — HSBC Canada and Tangerine, a unit of Scotiabank, are currently led by women. 

'Barrier-breaking announcement'

Tanya van Biesen, the senior vice-president of global corporate engagement at nonprofit group Catalyst, which works to make workplaces more woman-friendly, says it's impossible to understate the significance of Fraser's promotion.

"It's fantastic news," van Biesen said in an interview. "This is a real true barrier-breaking announcement."

She said the significance of having a woman head up one of the most powerful financial companies in the world is symbolically very important, as it will shatter the norms of what a leader looks like.

"It demonstrates that it is not that women aren't there or available and ready," she said. "It's just taken us time to realize that leadership can come in a woman's body."



With files from the CBC's Reid Southwick


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