Citicorp brings in spending controller

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The Independent Online
CITICORP, the big US bank that has suffered more than its share of cost-control embarrassments in recent years, has hired Christopher Steffen, the controversial finance director forced out of Eastman Kodak, to tighten the spending screws.

Mr Steffen - who left Kodak last month after clashing with the chief executive, Kay Whitmore, only two months into the job - will join Citicorp's management committee as its sixth member, concentrating on financial controls, internal audit and productivity.

But Citicorp, which has twice been censured by bank regulators for sloppy accounting in the past year, said Mr Steffen would not act as a finance director as such but would be charged with a broader 're-engineering' of the bank.

'(Bank chief executive) John Reed's thinking for some time has been that it would be useful to bring a different perspective to divisional management,' a bank spokesman said. 'He believes that industry is ahead of financial services businesses in this regard and wanted to bring in an outsider with experience in an industrial environment,'

Mr Reed first contacted Mr Steffen earlier this year before he left Honeywell for his short-lived experiment at cutting costs at Kodak. The ambitious Mr Steffen is highly regarded on Wall Street for helping to turn around both Honeywell and, before that, Chrysler Corporation.

Citicorp, however, has already returned to profitability, cutting 14,000 jobs and slashing annual expenses by dollars 1.3bn. Mr Steffen's appointment suggested that 'the job is not yet done, and that there's still plenty of room for improvement', said Rafael Soifer, banking analyst with Brown Brothers Harriman.