Bischoff in for the short haul at Citigroup after Prince departure

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The Independent Online

Sir Win Bischoff, the London-based banker who has stepped in as interim chief executive of Citigroup, the world’s largest bank, following the abrupt resignation of chairman and chief executive Charles Prince, does not expect to be occupying the executive suite for very long.

“My role is to hand over a vibrant firm which has learnt from its mistakes and will be ready once again to take advantage of its considerable assets and heritage,” he said in a conference call. “I look forward to a relatively short period of months before handing over to the next CEO.”

He has stepped into a sticky situation. The Wall Street giant revealed at the weekend that it would be forced to write down between $8bn (£3.8bn) and $11bn due to its exposure to the subprime mortgage sector in the US, well beyond the $6.5bn it announced just last month. The financial hit hastened the exit of Mr Prince, who had struggled throughout his five years as the head of Citgroup to convince investors that he was in full command of the business.

Richard Parsons, the head of the media giant Time Warner and a Citi board member, will lead the search for his replacement. In the meantime, Robert Rubin, the former US Treasury Secretary and head of Goldman Sachs, has taken over as chairman. Yet it will be Sir Win, 66, who will have his hand on the tiller of the biggest ship in the financial world.

Born in Aachen, Germany, he studied in Cologne and Dusseldorf before his father moved the family to South Africa. He went to university in Johannesburg before moving to London, where he joined Schroders – then known as Henry Schroder & Co – in the company finance division in 1966. After a stint in Hong Kong, he returned to London and was eventually appointed chief executive in 1984. Elevated to chairman in 1985, he sold Schroders’ investment banking business to Citigroup subsidiary Smith Barney for $2.2bn in 2000.

Now chairman of Citigroup Europe, he is described as an old-school investment banker with a Rolodex full of FTSE 100 chief executives, who revels in a travel schedule that has him catching 100-plus flights a year, including to weekly strategy meetings at Citi’s New York headquarters. He also sits on the boards of Land Securities; McGraw Hill, the publishing group that owns the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s; the UK insurer Prudential; the US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Akbank, a Turkish bank part-owned by Citigroup.