Six months before Jane Fraser took charge of Citi Private Bank in 2009, Citi had shaken up its wealth management arm with the 51 percent sale of Smith Barney to Morgan Stanley. Across the industry, trading volumes were weak in the wake of the worst financial crisis in living memory, and wealth managers were facing drastically tougher business conditions. Fraser faced the challenge head on, and has been awarded Legal Momentum’s “Aiming High Award” given annually to women who have risen to prestigious and influential positions in their industries. “Their courage to aim high has helped blaze a trail to guide millions of women and girls toward opportunities once closed to them,” according to Legal Momentum’s website.
Into this challenging environment she stepped, having served as the global head of Strategy and Mergers & Acquisitions at Citi, with her priorities centered on Citigroup’s integration of its Private Bank into its Institutional Clients Group.
Says Fraser from a business trip visiting clients in Indonesia, China, Singapore and the Philippines, “The advice I give is the same I live in my career: Step out of your comfort zone – even if it means learning the hard way – and take responsibility for advancing your own career. Get international experience because it will open your mind to new styles, approaches and opportunities.” Throughout her career, Fraser has lived and breathed that advice.
Now three years into her role as CEO of Citi Private Bank, one of her primary goals continues to be re-earning client trust by transforming the way business is conducted. This meant a shift to an advisory model from one that tended to push products instead of ideas.
It has also meant harnessing Citigroup’s extensive network in 160 countries—especially in emerging economies, getting the most of what each had to offer and delivering those results to Citi Private Bank clients.
When asked about her leadership style, she ticks off a number of practical anecdotes:
- Raise the performance bar: Up the ante, show restless curiosity for new ideas and be self-aware.
- Lead the leaders: Lead by being a practical visionary through example and achievement, and help advance colleagues upwards, sideways and downwards using an unusual degree of common sense.
- Set the tone: Make sense of ambiguity and recognize that the genius of business strategy is in the execution, not the design.
- Encourage teamwork: Set stretch goals, give people autonomy and space to get on with their delivery and attribute success to teamwork, not a lone gun.
A strong believer in giving back to others, Fraser is a board member of the Touch Foundation in New York, which runs a medical college and hospital, and works to improve the health care system in Tanzania, Africa. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
This year, Legal Momentum also honored Kathy Zachem, senior vice president of Regulatory and State Legislative Affairs at Comcast; Pamela Carter, president of Cummins Distribution Business and Lynn Utter, president and COO of Knoll. Previous winners of Legal Momentum’s Aiming High Awards include Ellen Kullman, then EVP of DuPont who became CEO, and Maggie Wilderotter, honored while working for Microsoft and now CEO of Frontier Communications. The Aiming High Award honors courageous women who have ascended to high-level corporate positions and helped pave the way for other women to do the same. To learn more about the Aiming High Awards, click here.
Christopher Y. Clark is publisher of NACD Directorship magazine and Directorship.com.