CEO, Latin America, Citigroup

Last fall, Citigroup announced plans to invest $1 billion in its Mexico franchise. Then over the summer, the global banking giant made clear how great its expectations are for the United States' southern neighbor, declaring that roughly 25% of its plan to improve its worldwide consumer banking returns comes from Mexico.

“So no pressure, really,” said Jane Fraser, the dry-witted Scotland native who heads Citi’s Latin American operations.

Fraser has been tapped to revive lagging parts of Citi’s business before and Mexico is her latest turnaround assignment.

Citi’s Banco Nacional de Mexico, also known as Banamex, was reeling from massive fraud when she arrived in 2015. Still, the bank had a lot going for it: heritage that goes back to the 1880s, a full array of corporate and consumer banking services, and substantial market share.

“It is the largest market Citi has outside the U.S.,” Fraser said.

Fraser foresaw a big growth opportunity in Mexico, where half of the population is unbanked.

Last year Citi rebranded the bank as Citibanamex and simultaneously announced its massive investment plan, one of the largest financial commitments the company has ever made. The investment is being used for several big projects: modernizing Citi’s branches in Mexico, which get far more foot traffic than their U.S. counterparts; developing the Mexican bank’s digital capabilities; and improving customer service.

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Citi’s plan to double down on its south-of-the-border unit has drawn some skepticism, given President Donald Trump’s positions on immigration and trade. But Fraser struck an optimistic tone, noting that revenue was up 8% during the second quarter from the same period a year earlier, and vowing to push for a modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I think we all feel there is a big win-win opportunity for both countries,” she said.

Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack is a California-based reporter for American Banker who covers the U.S. consumer finance industry.