Salomon Brothers analyst Diane Glossman has added her voice to a chorus saying that Citicorp is preparing to take a sizable restructuring charge.
Ms. Glossman predicted a charge of about $1 billion this quarter. Others have estimated a $500 million to $1.5 billion charge this quarter or next.
Most agree that it would be part of a drive to step up product development and revenue-generating marketing initiatives. In her report this week, Ms. Glossman said Citicorp wants to accelerate the consolidation of computer systems that run its worldwide operations.
The $304 billion-asset Citicorp, the second-largest U.S. banking company, is unlikely to take any charges "piecemeal," said Ronald Mandle, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "If they have to wait, they will."
Ms. Glossman said Citicorp chairman John S. Reed has grown frustrated with slow-moving expense-reduction efforts.
Analysts have estimated the company's operating costs for this year at $13 billion. Mr. Mandle said the annual increase would be 7%, in line with expectations and below growth in revenues.
"Citicorp has continued to have opportunities to eliminate redundant expenses," Ms. Glossman said in an interview Thursday. "They have moved forward with the consolidation, but it has not been very rapid."
Cost-cutting programs have been in vogue at banks in recent years. Fleet Financial Group was among the first to initiate a high-profile program in 1995, dubbed Fleet Focus.
Investors are not always quick to support these initiatives, said analysts. Cost-cutting can be viewed as clearing the decks for future revenue opportunities or as a reflection of continuing operational problems.
If a bank is able to increase its competitiveness by improving efficiency relative to peers, "the market will applaud it," said Michael Mayo, a Credit Suisse First Boston analyst.
The speculation about Citicorp has come after suggestive remarks by top management.
With the second-quarter earnings report came a statement from chairman Reed that "we will also respond with cost initiatives to accelerate the integration and globalization of our operations and technology base."
At a meeting with analysts to review those quarterly results, William I. Campbell, executive vice president of global consumer banking, said his cost base could be cut by 10% to 15% over the next few years, according to Mr. Mandle's report.
The $7.3 billion of costs run up by global consumer banking accounted for more than half of the corporation's 1996 total.
Mary Alice Taylor, the executive vice president of operations who joined Citicorp in January from Federal Express Corp., is seen by analysts as a catalyst in any cost-cutting initiative. Mr. Mandle wrote in his report that a 15% cut in spending in either Ms. Taylor's or Mr. Campbell's units would save $750 million annually.
David S. Berry, director of research at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., predicted cost savings of $450 million next year, $900 million by 1999, and $1.3 billion by 2000.
"It's not cast in stone," Ms. Glossman said. "But we certainly have high hopes that the changes will happen much more quickly."