But he lacked the personal and political skills to woo regulators, lawmakers or institutional investors and he left behind little affection in Washington, according to many people who interacted with him. He sometimes canceled meetings with members of Congress, was hard for government officials to reach by phone at key moments, and was often at odds with regulators, most notably Sheila Bair when she ran the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Despite Citigroup’s improved earnings, Pandit also lost the confidence of big institutional investors, who voted to reject his $15 million compensation in 2011. The company declined to comment Tuesday on the details of his exit package.
Many analysts said that Michael O’Neill, a former chief executive of Bank of Hawaii who became Citi board chairman in April, believed it was time for new leadership.
O’Neill side-stepped questions about Pandit’s abrupt departure during a call with analysts Tuesday, and Pandit stressed in a statement that he left on his own accord. Still, several analysts on the call wondered why the chief executive would step down with no transition period.
The bank named Michael Corbat the new chief executive, who has been head of Citigroup’s Europe, Middle East and Africa division and who earlier at Citi Holdings sold off many of the bank’s most toxic assets to help repair its balance sheet. Corbat said in a conference call Monday that the leadership “changes do not reflect any desire to alter the direction of Citigroup, which we believe to be the right one.”
Michael Andrews, a former senior Citigroup executive based in Washington, called Corbat “a solid guy” and compared him to J.P. Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon. Andrews said that Corbat had “an even better persona for the kind of customers you’re trying to seek.”
Some analysts, lobbyists and former Citigroup executives said that Pandit’s background in the hedge fund world was an asset in unwinding some of the complex investment vehicles and mortgage securities that helped put the bank in trouble when the economy began to collapse in late 2008.
But they said that Pandit struggled to manage such a large institution. Moreover, the bank’s deposit base did not grow and the stock price plunged to about one-tenth the level it was the day he took over.
“Citi is a lot stronger than it was. Maybe that’s faint praise, but it could have been a lot worse,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, a banking consultant in Washington. “I don’t think it’s fair to blame Pandit for the condition Citi was in in 2008. He wasn’t the CEO through the construction of the Citi edifice or excesses . . . [and] he came in right as the bubble burst.”