By David Benoit
Citigroup Inc. tapped its Latin America chief, Jane Fraser, to serve as the bank's No. 2 executive, putting her atop the list to succeed Chief Executive Michael Corbat.
The New York bank named Ms. Fraser president and head of its consumer bank, where she replaces Stephen Bird. Mr. Bird, who had been considered a potential CEO candidate, is leaving the bank after being passed over for the president role, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Bird told Mr. Corbat he was leaving "to pursue an opportunity outside our firm," Citigroup said Thursday.
Mr. Bird had led the consumer bank since 2015 and was a veteran of the bank's Asia Pacific operations. He will stay for a short transition period, the bank said.
Citigroup has been without a president since Jamie Forese retired earlier this year. Mr. Corbat selected one of his deputies for the role to make sure the bank had a successor in place, the people said. Mr. Forese had run the arm of the bank that includes investment banking and trading.
Mr. Corbat, 59, has been CEO since 2012 and expects to stay for at least three more years. "I remain committed to leading our firm in the coming years and look forward to working even more closely with Jane in her new roles," he said in a memo to employees the bank released Thursday.
Mr. Corbat has earned praise for smoothing over the bank's once-fraught relationship with regulators. But Citigroup's stock still trades below book value, or its net worth, and last year an activist investor took a stake in the bank.
The appointment makes Ms. Fraser, 52, one of the highest-ranking women in the U.S. banking business. At a congressional hearing this year, Mr. Corbat and other big-bank CEOs -- all white men -- were asked if they were likely to be succeeded by female candidates one day. No one said yes.
Days later, JPMorgan Chase & Co. shortlisted Marianne Lake and Jennifer Piepszak, two women with decades of experience at the bank, to one day succeed James Dimon as CEO.
Ms. Fraser joined Citigroup in 2004 after stints at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and McKinsey & Co. The bank has tapped her for a number of thorny tasks, and she has long been a trusted lieutenant of Mr. Corbat. She played a lead role in key decisions to slim down Citigroup, such as selling the Smith Barney brokerage. She also ran the private bank, which serves ultrarich clients around the world.
She was most recently CEO of Citigroup's Latin American division. The unit is the smallest of the company's regions by income in both consumer and investment banking but has the highest return rate. Citigroup's Mexico consumer bank, formerly called Banamex, has a large presence in that country.
In her new role as head of Citigroup's global consumer arm, Ms. Fraser takes over a unit that accounts for roughly half of the bank's total revenue but whose profit lags behind its investment-banking arm.
Ernesto Torres Cantu, currently CEO of Citibanamex, succeeds Ms. Fraser as CEO of Citigroup Latin America.
Write to David Benoit at email@example.com