When Jane Fraser was invited last year to play in a golf outing with Tiger Woods, her immediate reaction was one she might have had early in her banking career when confronted with a new challenge: terror.
Running three major business lines for one of the world's largest banks while raising a family leaves little time for golf, and Fraser, who has a handicap of 25, feared she might embarrass herself in front of the well-known golfer not to mention a nationally televised audience.
That fear dissipated, though, as Fraser recalled how readily she now embraces new challenges in her job. Her then-12-year-old son also helped to ease the tension when he reminded Fraser that all eyes would be on Woods, not her.
Scheduling conflicts ultimately prevented her from joining Woods that day, but Fraser tells this story to illustrate her evolution as a banker and leader and to reiterate the advice she often gives to rising stars in her field. "I used to believe that I had to be 120% qualified before I did anything," she says. The reality is, "you don't even have to be 100% qualified to take on a new role."
Not much could have fully prepared Fraser for her current role. Formerly the head of Citi's private bank, Fraser was still getting her arms around the mortgage business she took over in mid-2013 when she was approached earlier this year about replacing Cece Stewart as CEO of consumer and commercial banking. Fraser wasn't looking to make a change, but Stewart wanted to retire and global banking CEO Manuel Medina-Mora believed that Fraser could handle the additional responsibilities. In her new role, Fraser oversees retail, commercial and small-business banking, along with wealth management and mortgages.
She no longer worries about straying too far from her comfort zone because she recognizes that she doesn't have to know everything. "The key is to have a good team around you," Fraser says. "When you are leading something, you're not the one coming up with all the answers, but you need to provide the context, the purpose, the direction. You count on your team to come up with the innovation and the right content."
Of course, Fraser wouldn't be offered such high-profile jobs if she didn't have such an impressive track record of getting things done. For example, the global private bank was losing roughly $250 million a year when she took it over in 2009, and by the time she left that post in 2013, it was generating a substantial profit.
Fraser, 47, says that the move to CitiMortgage was a big risk careerwise, but was well worth it. "Ninety percent of the people I heard from said, 'Are you out of your mind?' But my view is that it's giving me exposure to new things. I'm learning Washington. I'm learning the retail business. I'm working with 20,000 people, not 4,000. It's a whole different skill set."