Citibank has hired a senior executive from Providian Financial Corp. to take charge of its $45 billion credit card business in the United States and Canada.
The Citicorp unit announced Wednesday that A. Sami Siddiqui, executive vice president of San Francisco-based Providian, will succeed Roberta J. Arena, who has overseen the bulk of Citibank's industry-leading card portfolio and related operations since January 1994.
Ms. Arena announced her resignation after a high-level management reshuffling in April. She is to stay on until yearend to help with the transition.
Mr. Siddiqui, 44, arrives July 15. He spent nine years at Providian Financial, one of the most profitable bank card issuers and a recent spinoff from Providian Corp., a Louisville-based insurance holding company. He previously worked at Wells Fargo & Co. and from 1979 to 1981 was manager of fraud and risk prevention in Citicorp's Carte Blanche division.
Because Ms. Arena ran the biggest of all MasterCard and Visa programs, her impending departure has been a hot topic in the bank card industry. Much speculation centered on a change in reporting lines that may have diminished her authority.
With the recent realignment, the 23-year Citibank veteran, who had been reporting chairman John Reed, became part of the retail banking team reporting up to executive vice president William I. Campbell.
Citi was signaling that credit cards, its biggest and most consistent profit machine, would become more closely integrated with the global consumer businesses under Mr. Campbell, a renowned brand strategist and former chairman of Philip Morris U.S.A.
In a statement Wednesday, Mr. Campbell stressed the bank's desire to both "maintain our industry leadership in cards and remain aggressively focused on strengthening relationships with our customers."
Mr. Siddiqui will be reporting to Alvaro A.C. de Souza, executive vice president and U.S. consumer banking chief, whose responsibilities include bringing the domestic card business more fully under the "Citibanking" umbrella.
In charge of the U.S. and Canada, Mr. Siddiqui will not get other responsibilities that Ms. Arena had, including European cards, global travelers checks, and merchant servicing.
The bank intends to appoint someone else for Europe, said Citibank spokeswoman Susan Weeks. "From a cost and customer structure it worked best to have everything reporting geographically," Ms. Weeks said.
Credit cards were Citi's only line of business that had a manager overseeing several regions.
Industry sources said Mr. Siddiqui, who was not available for comment Wednesday, will move easily into Citicorp's high-powered culture.
"His style is very similar to Citibank's," said James Shanahan, principal of Business Dynamics Consulting in Nyack, N.Y. "He thinks for himself, is decisive and very analytical."
Mr. Siddiqui does not have a high industry profile.
Providian, No. 13 in card loans, is closely identified with its chairman and chief executive officer, Shailesh J. Mehta. The company applies his mathematical and data-base innovations to make highly targeted offers to prospects whom mainstream card issuers may overlook. Providian has become a leader in secured credit cards, which go to people who find it hard to qualify for unsecured loans but who can later be upgraded to larger, unsecured credit lines.
Mr. Mehta, according to an industry source, turned down the Citibank card job.
Mr. Mehta had rotated Mr. Siddiqui and other members of his management team into various responsibilities that gave them a comprehensive range of experiences. Mr. Siddiqui was most recently in charge of unsecured credit.
"Sami Siddiqui brings us a set of skills which span the critical functions within the card business, and he has demonstrated the ability to direct entrepreneurial energies within a structured environment," said Mr. Campbell.
Providian took Mr. Siddiqui's hiring by Citibank as a compliment, said Providian spokeswoman Laurie Cole. "It is definitely a loss for us."
Providian named its top home equity loan executive, David R. Alvarez, to succeed Mr. Siddiqui. Mr. Alvarez, as executive vice president, will continue to oversee home equity lending and lead a company wide initiative to reduce bankruptcies, while also taking on unsecured marketing, corporatewide credit, testing, and marketing services.
Providian also promoted Ellen Richey, general counsel, to executive vice president.