Citigroup Discovers Performance Data? Really?

Jonathan Weil joined Bloomberg News as a columnist in 2007, and his columns on finance and accounting won Best in the Business awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2009 and 2010.
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The Wall Street Journal has a curious articleabout Citigroup Inc. and its new chief executive officer, Michael Corbat. It says he is "putting his stamp on the company with a simple formula: You can't manage what you can't measure."

Readers learn he spoke to a gathering of 300 executives at a New Jersey hotel last month where he "proposed a slate of new, more-rigorous ways to track both the performance of individual executives and the third-largest U.S. bank as a whole." Score cards will rate top managers in five categories: capital, clients, costs, culture and controls. (The Five C's!)

"Mr. Corbat wants to more-closely track how executives perform against their financial plan," the article said. "The quantitative focus is the sharpest sign yet of how Mr. Corbat is likely to differ from his predecessor, Vikram Pandit, who was forced out by the board in October after a series of mishaps."

It went on: "Most large financial companies use some type of metrics to gauge their progress. Under Mr. Pandit, Citigroup used score cards for some departments, but not others."

Here's what's baffling: Did Citigroup not use a quantitative focus to measure performance before? Is the use of data and metrics really something new to many of its executives? Anything is possible, I suppose. This is Citigroup, the mother of all bank bailouts. But this would be incredible if true.

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