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Company News

Citi's Fraser breaks glass ceiling, without shoulder pads

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Jane Fraser’s path to the top of Citigroup Inc was paved by sacrifices and compromises as she balanced her role as a mother with career progression, saying at one point that she could not do it all at the same time.

She has frequently spoken with striking candor about the challenges of holding down a high-powered pressurized job while raising two sons with her husband, also a senior banker, who eventually gave up his finance career to support her.

“You cannot have it all at the same time,” she told CNN in 2014. “You can have it all, spread over decades.”

Fraser, 53, navigated some of the world’s most cut-throat corporate environments, including Goldman Sachs, Harvard Business School and McKinsey & Company before joining Citigroup in 2004.

During her time at the bank she has helped execute some of its divestitures, including the staggered sale of its Smith Barney brokerage, and was often assigned to fix problems in the bank’s operations, ranging from its U.S. mortgage business to its Mexico operations.

She became president and chief executive of global consumer banking last year.

“She’s very, very intelligent and a thoughtful, strategic thinker. She’s a consensus builder who listens to everyone and then takes decisive action,” said one prominent Citi investor.

The investor said Fraser had illustrated her qualifications for the top job during her stint from 2015 to 2019 running the bank’s Latin America operations, where she cleaned up some underperforming businesses.

“She’s different from the archetypal Wall Street person. She’s more likable. She truly cares about Citi,” he added.

Brian Kleinhanzl, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said Fraser has a solid track record within the bank and “may be more willing to make changes” to boost its laggard profits, as investors have demanded.

Fraser declined requests for interviews on Thursday, a Citi spokeswoman said.

NO SHOULDER PADS

Fraser started her career with Goldman Sachs in London and went to work in Madrid before earning an MBA at Harvard Business School in 1994. She had initially been reluctant to rejoin the financial services industry due to the industry’s lack of women.

“There were so few women in financial services, and those who were, were rather scary. It was the days of wearing these big padded shoulders, dressing practically like a man or in these suits that were horrendous, and none of them were that happy,” she told an audience at women’s networking event in 2016.

“I didn’t want that,” Fraser said, according to a YouTube recording of the event.

She said she ignored those who warned her that she would be “stupid” to get pregnant in the run-up to being made partner at McKinsey. “You can’t just lead your life that way,” she said at the same event.

Two weeks after giving birth, she was appointed partner and proceeded to work part-time for a decade before returning to banking with Citigroup in 2004, keen to move away from advising and back to running a business.

Often self-deprecating, good-humored and candid, Fraser on Thursday drew praise from colleagues both inside and outside the bank.

“Apart from being our first female CEO, and the first for a large U.S. bank, Jane is also a... thoroughly decent person,” said one of her colleagues.

Greg Baer, president of the Bank Policy Institute trade group, who has worked with Fraser in the past, said, “Jane has the knowledge and perspicacity to be a policy leader for the industry.” (Reporting by Pete Schroeder in Washington, David Henry in New York and Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston; additional reporting by Huw Jones in London; editing by Michelle Price and Dan Grebler)

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