Citigroup Chief Executive Michael Corbat will still have a job tomorrow (and probably several days after that).
The bank's capital distribution plan was approved by the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, undoubtedly to the delight of shareholders who were surprised by last year's rejection. Citigroup plans subject to board approval to increase its dividend to investors from $0.01 to $0.05 per share per quarter, and to repurchase $7.8 billion of common stock, the company said in a news release after the Fed's announcement.
Citigroup scored higher than 13 other banks, including all of its large bank peers, highlighting just how far the bank has come since the crisis when it accepted more than $45 billion in taxpayer money to stay afloat.
Citi's approval indicates "only" that the central bank does not see any objectionable practices or widespread deficiencies that needed immediate attention, a senior Fed official told reporters Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. All of the large and most complex banks, including Citi, still have more work to do, the official said.
Though Wall Street firms reduced total payrolls by another 4% in 2014, big banks have staffed up to ensure they pass muster in this two-part exam that equity investors and regulators consider all-important.
Citigroup has hired 10,000 regulatory and compliance professionals, despite eliminating more than 20,000 positions in two years.
"We want Citi to be an indisputably safe and sound institution and will do everything in our power to make that the case, year in and year out," Corbat said in the release.
Citigroup's global footprint, which it touts as an earnings strength, was last year ironically a source of weakness, regulators said when announcing the 2014 results. Specific areas of concern last year included Citi's inability, according to the Fed, to project revenue and losses under a stressful scenario and its inability to develop scenarios for its internal stress testing adequately.
The country's largest bank by assets, JPMorgan Chase, whose capital plan was also accepted on Wednesday, has hired 13,000 over the last two years to bolster internal controls. JPMorgan's initial 2015 results put it in last place among 31 banks reviewed by the Federal Reserve. The bank moved up only one spot after a second review, Fed officials said.
This year's results show a big gap in Wall Street banks' level of preparedness for periods of financial stress. The Fed does not explain how it reaches its qualitative determinations.
Bank of America, which had to submit an "adjusted" capital management plan last year after its initial plan fell short of the regulatory capital minimums, received a conditional "non-objection" to its capital plan this year. The Fed asked the bank to "correct weaknesses in some elements of its capital planning process" by Sept. 30, and cited "weaknesses in [the bank's] loss and revenue modeling practices and some aspects of the [bank holding company's] internal controls."
The top-line minimum capital ratio that receives the most attention is the required 5% Tier 1 common ratio, which the four megabanks passed. Citi's ratio was 6.5%, Wells' was 6.1%, JPMorgan's was 5.5% and B of A's was 5.3%
JPMorgan Chase failed the Tier 1 leverage ratio with its initial filing with a 3.8% capital level and just squeaked by the required minimum Tier 1 common ratio with 5.0% under the severely adverse economic scenario posited by the Fed. Its revised capital plan showed a 4.1% Tier 1 leverage ratio and a 5.5% Tier 1 common ratio.
John Heltman contributed to this report.