Citigroup Fires Small-Business Bankers to Cut Costs

Citigroup Inc., the third-biggest U.S. lender, is firing some small-business bankers in the U.S. as Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat cuts costs in an area where competitors are hiring.

The U.S. retail banking unit is “realigning,” Catherine Pulley, a spokeswoman for New York-based Citigroup, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. She declined to say how many bankers were being fired.

“While this realignment will result in the elimination of some positions, we will continue to provide easier banking and excellent service for our small-business clients,” she said.

Corbat, 52, is trimming thousands of Citigroup employees and overhauling operations as he seeks to reduce expenses and improve the lender’s profit. The reduction contrasts with the strategy adopted by Bank of America Corp. CEO Brian T. Moynihan, who said Dec. 4 that he added almost 6,000 small-business bankers and financial advisers in 2012.

Citigroup committed in 2011 to lend $24 billion to small businesses over three years, Pulley said.

“We are on track to once again surpass our lending goal of $8 billion in 2012,” Pulley said. “These changes reflect our strategy to optimize our staffing needs in the branches.”

Citigroup’s North America retail bank had about $160 billion of average deposits at the end of 2012, a 9 percent increase from a year earlier. Commercial loans by the unit increased 23 percent to $7.9 billion over the same period.

Revenue at the North America consumer-banking unit, which includes the lender’s credit-card operations, climbed 5 percent to $21.1 billion in 2012 from a year earlier. Profit jumped 18 percent to $4.81 billion.

Citigroup rose 1.9 percent to close yesterday at $42.80 in New York. The shares have advanced 8.2 percent this year, compared with the 5.2 percent gain of the 24-company KBW Bank Index.

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