Julie Monaco made our 2008 Women to Watch list for the impressive growth strategies she implemented at Citigroup's North American global transaction services business. Turns out she plays defense just as well as she plays offense.

Monaco ran a relentless outreach campaign late last year to hold onto customers as Citi was gripped by the financial crisis. She arranged client conference calls with senior level executives, and had her group calling on customers daily to reassure them.

"Every time a piece of news came out, there were talking points ready for our sales force so they could get on the phone with clients and get to work. I spent a lot of time out on the road meeting directly with clients. It was an all-hands-on-deck" strategy, Monaco says.

Despite debilitating market conditions, Monaco's unit showed a 31 percent increase in annual revenue and a 55 percent jump in net income last year. And Citi's improved firm-wide performance in the first half of 2009 went a long way toward restoring customer confidence. That leaves more time for Monaco to focus on growth strategies, but it doesn't mean she has quit thinking defensively.

With global transaction services, "you have to be able to do both, because you're protecting a huge annuity base... and in order to get huge growth from it, you have to get innovative."

Among Monaco's innovations at Citi: adding correspondent banking capabilities to the bank services group, part of a revamping that helped boost revenue and deposits; and making Citi the bank of choice to provide global supply-chain management solutions to the restructured North American auto industry.

Monaco also has sought more opportunities in the public sector, building on her strategy to service state and local government clients - which by the end of 2008 were her unit's largest contributor to liability balances. Citi last year implemented the largest government travel card contract in history, as the provider for the Department of Defense's 1.2 million cardholders.

Now Monaco wants her public sector group to strengthen ties with universities and non-profits, and to create products and services related to government stimulus funds. She also plans to focus on health care.

"We consciously chose not to focus on health care last year because we wanted to wait until the new administration came in, to see where they were taking health care," Monaco says.

That kind of patience illustrates her style as a tactician.

"She plays chess, not checkers," says Kevin Fitzgerald, managing director of the North American public sector for Citi's global transaction services business. "She's able to see several moves down a particular path."

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