Citi profit drops as costs rise for employee severance, deposit insurance

By Thomson Reuters Apr 12, 2024 | 7:05 AM

By Manya Saini and Tatiana Bautzer

(Reuters) -Citigroup’s profit fell in the first quarter as it spent more on severance payments for laid-off employees and set aside money to refill a government deposit insurance fund.

Net income fell to $3.4 billion, or $1.58 per share, in the three months ended March 31, the bank said on Friday. That compares with $4.6 billion, or $2.19 per share, a year earlier.

“Last month marked the end to the organizational simplification we announced in September. The result is a cleaner, simpler management structure that fully aligns to and facilitates our strategy,” CEO Jane Fraser said in a statement.

Citi said in its investor presentation that it expects a headcount reduction of 7,000 and $1.5 billion in annualized savings from reorganization. Shares rose 1% before the bell.

Fraser began a sweeping reorganization in September to simplify the bank and improve performance. Costs from the reorganization pushed expenses up to $14.2 billion.

The largest round of staffing moves, including reassignments and departures, was communicated to employees in late March.

The bank also paid $251 million into a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp fund that was drained last year after three regional lenders failed.

Revenue fell 2% on a reported basis to $21.1 billion in the first quarter. Excluding one-off items such as the sales of businesses last year, it was higher in the quarter.

Rival JPMorgan Chase reported a higher first-quarter profit on Friday, while Wells Fargo’s quarterly profit shrank as it earned less from customer interest payments.

Performance at Citi’s services and banking divisions stood out. The business that provides cash management, clearing and payments services for the world’s biggest corporations, revenue rose 8% to $4.8 billion, buoyed by an 18% jump in securities services revenue to $1.3 billion.

Meanwhile, a resurgence in capital markets and investment banking fees fueled a 49% surge in banking revenue to $1.7 billion. Corporate lending rose 34%.

Markets were a sore spot. Trading revenue fell 7% to $5.4 billion, dragged lower by fixed income and currencies.

Wealth management revenue shrank 4% to $1.7 billion.

While Citi’s consumer banking division grew revenue, it also stockpiled more money to cover potential losses from customers who default on their loans.

In the previous quarter, Citi had posted a $1.8 billion loss as one-time items dragged down its earnings.

“These past months have not been easy,” Fraser wrote in March. “Far from it. The changes we’ve made are the biggest that most of us have experienced at Citi …, putting us on the front foot and improving our competitiveness,” she had said.

Investors have rewarded Fraser with a share price boost since the overhaul began in September. Next, they want to see growth in wealth management and investment banking.

The company’s stock has risen 18% this year, outperforming peers and beating the benchmark S&P 500.

The bank still faces challenges, including regulatory problems and an unsettled workforce. In February, Reuters reported U.S. regulators asked Citigroup for urgent changes to the way it measures default risk of its trading partners.

Citi is working to fix problems laid out in two enforcement actions from the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency from 2020.

The consent orders direct the bank to repair deficiencies in its risk management, data governance and internal controls.

(Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer in New York and Manya Saini in Bengaluru; Editing by Lananh Nguyen and Arun Koyyur)