Meet Citi’s Jane Fraser, Who May Become the First Woman to Run a Wall Street Bank

October 25, 2019, 1:20 PM UTC
Key Speakers At The 2019 Milken Conference
Jane Fraser speaks at a Milken Institute Conference. A promotion at Citi puts her in line for the CEO job. Photographer: Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Kyle Grillot—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wall Street banks have long been wholly dominated by male CEOs. But with the news late Thursday that Citi CEO Michael Corbat had named Jane Fraser his number two (and heir apparent for the top job), things might be shaking up.

Fraser, who now seems poised to take over when Corbat leaves Citigroup, was named president of Citi and will head up global consumer banking—replacing Stephen Bird in the latter job, a 20-year Citi vet who will be stepping down from his role.

As a long-time employee at Citi herself (going on 15 years), the Edinburgh native has worked in a variety of roles, including seeing Citi’s corporate strategy and M&A group through the financial crisis and working in client strategy (and most recently as the chief of Citi’s Latin America division). She also ran Citi’s global private bank and U.S. consumer and commercial banking and mortgages. But Fraser’s new appointment—and its implications—isn’t merely momentous for Fraser alone.

Back in September, Fortune‘s Claire Zillman wrote a feature about the dearth of women in top jobs on Wall Street, posing a question that has been on the minds of, well, pretty much every woman who has ever worked in finance. Why, she asked, has Wall Street never had a woman CEO? The story started with a striking anecdote: During congressional testimony, Rep. Al Green (D‑Texas) asked the major bank CEOs—Michael Corbat of Citigroup, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, James Gorman of Morgan Stanley, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Ronald O’Hanley of State Street Corp., Charles Scharf of Bank of New York Mellon, and David Solomon of Goldman Sachs—to raise their hand if they believed their “likely successor will be a woman or a person of color.” Not a single one raised his hand.

Zillman continued: “Even as diversity initiatives and the #MeToo movement work to recalibrate corporate power dynamics across a range of industries and workplaces, Wall Street has remained terra incognita for women trying to reach the highest rung. ‘In theory, this is an analytical business, and what should matter here is performance. And yet in the most analytical of industries it hasn’t mattered,’ says Sallie Krawcheck, cofounder and CEO of Ellevest and once one of the highest-ranking women on Wall Street.”

To be sure, as Zillman notes in her story, dozens of female vets of banking and finance acknowledge: “Women want to be CEOs but are deemed not quite ready. Boards and shareholders say they want diverse leadership, but just can’t quite seem to find the right candidates once the top job opens up,” Zillman writes.

In announcing the move, Citi’s Corbat wrote in a memo that he remains “committed to leading our firm in the coming years and look forward to working even more closely with Jane in her new roles.”

Zillman had ended her Fortune story with a call to arms, writing: “So, Michael Corbat. Jamie Dimon. James Gorman. Brian Moynihan. Ronald O’Hanley. Charles Scharf. David Solomon. Who’s going to raise his hand first?” 

Michael Corbat might be first, but here’s hoping he’s the first of many. 

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