When Jane Fraser took over at Citi Private Bank, its high-net-worth clients were reeling.

The shockwaves of the financial crisis not only took a toll on their personal worth, but on their faith in the banking industry in general.

Other leaders might have tried to create comfort by returning to the familiarity of the status quo. Not Fraser.

Seeing the crisis as an opportunity, she wrenched Citi Private banking out of its old ways. She did away with commission-based pay for front-line staff and instituted an "open architecture investments platform" that allows clients the freedom to choose investment products from a broad range of providers-not just Citi.

"This is a back-to-basics world," says Fraser. "It has got to have transparency. Clients can't feel you are a distributor for the house product. They have to feel that you are acting in their interest. You are not going to serve them well by trying to push high-margin products across the board. Most of them are quite conservative and shell-shocked and we need to get them into the kind of portfolios that fit their risk profile."

Fraser also took aim at Citi's U.S. private bank, which she felt had for years been "dwarfed" by Smith Barney and overlyfocused on clients in the lower-net-worth end of the private-banking market. She saw the sale of the brokerage businessas one of the steps towardreturning the U.S. operations to a "world-class private bank" by transitioning to a client base more in line with its Citi counterparts globally, which focus on ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

"The model of the future is one of continuous advice, where you are telling people when to sell and not just when to buy. And also telling them when not to act at all," she says.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.