It would seem almost impossible for Terri Dial to look bad as CEO of Citigroup's North American banking operations.

If she manages to turn around the business, Dial will be a hero. And if she doesn't, who would blame her, given that Citigroup must offload $600 billion in so-called "noncore" assets, many of which are troubled?

Citigroup has already shifted many of the troubled assets to Citi Holdings, but the core business operations under Citicorp still hold a "huge stock" of problem assets, says Joe Scott, senior director at Fitch Ratings. "They have a very high charge-off experience in credit cards, in first mortgages and in home-equity loans. So that's weighing on the results for Citi as a whole."

This could be another opportunity for Dial to dig in and affect the kind of double-digit growth for which she was credited at Wells Fargo & Co. She ended her nearly 30-year career there in 2001 after having worked her way up to president and CEO of the Wells Fargo Bank subsidiary.

Relative to competitors like Wells Fargo, Citigroup is an underdog when it comes to retail banking in the U.S., making Dial's job more challenging.

"Citi has a relatively weak retail banking presence in the U.S. versus its major rivals Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America," Scott says. "The branch network is much smaller, it's much more concentrated, particularly in the Northeast, and the deposit share is much smaller. So these would be key challenges competing against these much larger rivals."

Dial left Lloyds TSB to join Citigroup in June 2008. As CEO of consumer banking North America, she is responsible for consumer and small-business banking, Citi-branded credit cards, commercial banking, and personal wealth management. Dial is also the global head of consumer strategy, directing consumer-banking strategy worldwide in collaboration with Citi's regional CEOs.

As Citigroup continues to jettison ancillary businesses, such as Nikko Cordial Securities Inc., it's looking more and more like the old Citicorp of decades past, Scott says. This means more of a focus on the core banking business that Dial oversees.

"I think at times in the past, the U.S. franchise was neglected as they pursued international growth," Scott says. "It is a piece of the core institution going forward, but trying to reenergize U.S. retail operations and grow that again is certainly another challenge."

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