Citi’s Fraser predicts more women will lead big banks soon

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Citigroup’s Jane Fraser, who in February is set to become the first female CEO of a major U.S. bank, said she is confident other women will join her at the table in the not-so-distant future.

In a prerecorded message shared Thursday during American Banker’s 18th annual Most Powerful Women in Banking celebration, Fraser said she has received an outpouring of support from both colleagues and competitors since the Sept. 10 announcement that she will succeed Michael Corbat as top executive of the $2.2 trillion-asset global banking company.

The response "shattered the myth that women don’t support each other,” said Fraser, speaking during the virtual event. “This first is an accomplishment for us all and with the extraordinary cadre of women in our industry, I’m very certain it’s the first of many, many more to come.”

Jane Fraser, CEO-to-be at Citigroup
“This first is an accomplishment for us all and with the extraordinary cadre of women in our industry, I’m very certain it’s the first of many, many more to come," Jane Fraser says of her appointment to be the next CEO of Citigroup.

The remarks are among the first that Fraser, president and CEO of Citi’s global consumer bank since November 2019, has made publicly since her promotion was announced.

Two of her peers said Fraser’s appointment renewed the sense of optimism about the banking industry’s diversity and inclusion efforts, not just as those efforts relate to women but to all underrepresented groups.

Cathy Bessant, chief operations and technology officer at Bank of America, and Beth Mooney, retired KeyCorp chairman and CEO, heralded Fraser’s latest achievement and said that she is a guide for other women who also want to rise to the top in the financial services sector.

“I have to admit to you that I teared up completely" on hearing the news "and when I analyzed for myself why that was, it was because what we have wanted and what we have needed is momentum and beacons in this industry, for women to believe … it’s possible,” said Bessant, who joined Mooney in a virtual conversation that followed Fraser’s address.

Fraser’s promotion comes at a time when diversity and inclusion initiatives have surged to the top of the priority list for a number of banks, large and small, across the country. In response to deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans, several banks — including the four largest — have made promises to hire, retain and promote more women, Blacks and other minorities within their organizations. Some are hiring chief diversity officers or elevating those roles to the C-suite. Others are tying the success of diversity efforts directly to executive compensation packages.

Any future progress will be welcome relief. According to a September report from McKinsey, the financial services industry is now elevating more women to the upper echelon of management, but there is much work to be done when it comes to other groups. The proportion of people of color in entry-level positions was 39% in 2018, but it was just 10% at the C-suite level. Women of color were particularly underrepresented at the top, representing just 2% of the C-suite, the study shows.

Mooney, who became the first woman to lead a top 20 U.S. bank when she was promoted in 2011, championed diversity during her nine-year tenure at the head of KeyCorp, from which she retired in April. She said now it’s time to expand those efforts to include all groups of people.

“One thing I have reflected on since retirement: Did I even do enough?” Mooney said. “The conversation has to be about more than women. We need to make sure the aperture is wide and we are really underscoring people of color and racial equality as the next leg” of the journey.

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Succession planning Diversity and equality Women in Banking Citigroup Cathy Bessant Beth Mooney Bank of America KeyCorp