It was mind-boggling to read the Bloomberg News item "Citi's Pandit: Supermarket Bank Not Right for Times" published in American Banker on Aug. 22.
First, Pandit confuses the term "supermarket banking" (putting a branch in a Safeway) with the term "financial supermarket" (the ill-conceived and ultimately failed financial conglomerate concept begun by predecessor Sandy Weill). Then the Citigroup CEO claims to have scaled the bank "back to what Citi was prior to that [Travelers] merger."
Analyst Mike Mayo reminded readers of the Bloomberg article that Citi's investment arm alone is currently over three times bigger than the entire bank was back in 1997. Mayo went on to suggest Mr. Pandit stop "telling investors that it's essentially the same company as it was in 1997, that's not the case and by the way, it's not a close call."
Hard to know whether Mr. Pandit misspoke or whether the former hedge fund CEO is not familiar with this information about the banking industry and his bank.
Either way, the comments may provide insight into why this once-proud institution now limps along as one of the weakest of the bailed out, Too Big to Behave Banks.
Jim Wells is president of Wellspring Consulting International, which seeks to expand access to financial services for consumers who do not use traditional financial institutions.