Citigroup’s New Big Hire Is a No Nonsense, Hard-Charging Dealmaker

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(Bloomberg) — As Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jane Fraser shrinks Wall Street’s underdog into a leaner competitor, her newest big hire is a dealmaker known for his scrappy streak — and little tolerance of laggards.

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In one of his less conventional achievements in almost 24 years at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Viswas Raghavan helped the bank upstage Deutsche Bank AG’s sponsorship of the prestigious Lord’s cricket ground, a chapter in his friendly rivalry with Anshu Jain, once the German lender’s co-chief executive officer.

Inside JPMorgan, Raghavan made it clear to senior dealmakers that he was obsessed with climbing the league tables and eclipsing longtime investment-banking rival Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to people familiar with the executive who spoke on condition of anonymity. He was known to publicly chide senior investment bankers when they lost out on an advisory mandate and placed high demands on their junior staff. His hounding of dealmakers caused some to bristle at the pressure.

Read More: Citi Hires JPMorgan’s Raghavan as Banking Head in Turnaround

But after four years co-running JPMorgan’s global investment banking franchise, Raghavan, 57, is now set to take over Citigroup’s entire Wall Street operation as part of Fraser’s company-wide overhaul aimed at honing profitability. The tough-talking, bespectacled recruit’s style offers an early glimpse of how the business’s culture may take shape in the years to come.

His interest in taking control of a broader division also underscores his ambitions.

“Sometimes you want to run the show rather than being part of a team,” said Wells Fargo & Co. analyst Mike Mayo. The veteran banker’s bet on Citigroup’s prospects is noteworthy, Mayo said. “The willingness for an exec to go from a best to worst in class firm makes us wonder if our numbers are too conservative.”

‘Pivotal Moment’

Fraser — who’s in the midst of cutting about 20,000 jobs at Citigroup — announced Raghavan’s appointment in a memo to staff on Monday, calling him “the right person to take over at this pivotal moment.”

When he formally joins Citigroup as expected in summer, he will succeed Peter Babej, who took over the division on an interim basis when Fraser divided the bank into five “core” businesses amid the September restructuring. Babej will retire.

It’s not yet clear if Raghavan — a fan of UK soccer team Arsenal and Mayfair eatery Scott’s — will formally relocate from London to the bank’s New York base, a company spokesperson said, declining to comment further on the appointment. But regardless, he will travel frequently to its outposts around the world and meet with clients.

Before ultimately picking the executive, the bank had sounded out several senior women from across the industry, according to some of the people.

Raghavan is taking the reins of a business that’s suffered in recent years as revenues remain muted amid a global slump in dealmaking and capital markets activity. The division — encompassing advisory, capital markets, corporate and commercial banking — is the smallest of Citigroup’s pillars. It reported a 15% decline in revenue to $4.6 billion last year — contributing less than 6% of Citigroup’s total. Including expenses, the unit lost money.

At Citigroup’s investor day in 2022, executives laid out targets for gaining market share across the three key investment banking divisions: advisory, equity underwriting and debt underwriting. Two years on, Citigroup has actually lost share in advisory and equity capital markets, while the firm’s portion of debt underwriting deals has barely budged.

Fraser has vowed her moves will help boost a key measure of profitability known as return on tangible common equity to at least 11% by 2027 at the latest. On that metric, Raghavan’s banking division has the farthest to go.

Raghavan’s hiring isn’t the first time Fraser has shown she’s willing to look outside Citigroup’s ranks to secure top talent. She added Bank of America Corp.’s Andy Sieg to lead her burgeoning wealth business last year. The moves have also helped Citigroup create a deeper bench of executive talent that could one day succeed Fraser.

Indeed, if Raghavan can narrow the gap with rival banks and Citigroup’s other divisions — such as services and US retail banking, where revenues rose — it could establish him as a contender to someday take over for Fraser in the top job. People who know him said they wouldn’t be surprised if he brings over some of his closest colleagues from his former employer to help with the task ahead as well.

Back in 2014, Raghavan’s boss, Daniel Pinto, put it this way in an interview with Financial News: “Vis has incredible energy and encourages everyone to never be complacent.”

‘Bond King’

Raghavan wasn’t a rainmaker in the traditional sense of that word. Rather than a vast Rolodex of CEOs that he can tap for advisory mandates, he spent much of his career helping clients raise money in capital markets. He first made a name for himself by advising on what was then the world’s largest convertible bond sale, helping the German government sell bonds that could be switched to shares of Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s largest telecommunications provider, in 2003.

Those moves earned him the moniker “the convertible bond king” by the European press. In a later deal, he advised the Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal when he took a stake in the mining company Anglo American Plc in 2017 through a complex, structured bet. JPMorgan made several millions of dollars from that transaction alone. And more broadly, he’s cultivated a strong client base in India, according to one of the people.

Even as he rose through the ranks at JPMorgan, Raghavan never forgot his roots in capital markets. When he was named CEO of the firm’s operations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2017, Raghavan told an International Financing Review reporter that he was “still a humble CB banker.”

Raised in India and based in London, Raghavan arrived in the financial world with an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Bombay and a second bachelor’s in electronic engineering and computer science from the UK’s Aston University in Birmingham in 1989, which later awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Read More: Citi to Cut 20,000 Roles in Fraser’s Bid to Boost Returns

Fraser, who got her start as a McKinsey & Co. consultant telling other banks how to improve their businesses, rose to the top of Citigroup in 2021. After paring international operations to simplify the bank, and giving workers more leeway to work from home to get an edge in recruiting, she embarked on a more aggressive overhaul in 2023 as the stock headed for a fourth-straight annual decline.

In September, she announced a dramatic reshaping of the firm’s divisions, and shortly after warned employees to get on board with her overhaul or leave. In January she followed up by announcing targets for shrinking the workforce.

Read More: JPMorgan’s Raghavan Predicts Fees Bounce Back

“I’m encouraged by the fact Jane is willing to make bold changes to the bank’s trajectory,” said Daniel Babkes, a portfolio manager at Pzena Investment Management, which holds shares in the bank. “Citigroup is going for a cultural transformation, and that’s hard to do if you keep the same team.”

–With assistance from Katherine Doherty, Crystal Tse, Harry Wilson and Jenny Surane.

(Adds details about other external hire in 14th paragraph.)

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