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Jane Fraser’s two-pronged approach to becoming Citi’s next CEO

October 20, 2020, 1:12 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Chelsea Clinton’s venture capital fund ramps up, Denmark’s prime minister responds to a mayor’s sexual harassment scandal, and we learn more about Jane Fraser’s path to Citi’s CEO suite. Have a thoughtful Tuesday.

– How to break a glass ceiling. By now, we know what Jane Fraser accomplished when Citi appointed her incoming CEO last month: she broke Wall Street’s stubborn glass ceiling. But how, exactly, did she achieve what for so long seemed unachievable?

My new feature for Fortune aims to satisfy that question by closely examining Fraser’s career. The answer I arrived at is two-fold.

On one hand, she closely followed a ‘blueprint’ for banking executives, working her way through key business units at Citi, leaving each better than she found it. For instance, her promotion to CEO of Citi’s Latin American division in 2015 was a clean-up job, since it followed two scandals at Citi’s retail arm in Mexico.

On the other hand, Fraser flouted many of the old ‘rules’ of getting to the top, refusing to sacrifice her personal life at the altar of her career and talking openly about moments of self-doubt. Her willingness to address the human side of the job sets her apart not just from her Wall Street peers, but from other women who have achieved “firsts” in their industries, some of whom fear that by being open about such things they’ll be pigeonholed by the label, female CEO. Fraser sees it as an advantage: “I can be more vulnerable in certain areas; talking more about the human dimensions of this than some of my male colleagues are comfortable [with]. I don’t feel that’s in any way soft or weaker; I actually think it’s much more powerful.” 

Getting the CEO job was only the first step, of course; actually doing it comes next. And it won’t be an easy task, since Citi is dogged by lagging profitability and longstanding problems with its risk controls.

To take on those challenges, Fraser told me she’s drawing on some of the turn-around experience that got her here. “I think it’s going back and saying, ‘What are some of the root causes and then how do you turn that into an opportunity to really leapfrog and take the bank to a different level?’ ” she says. “And then how do you galvanize the organization to work toward that? I did that with the private bank, did that with mortgages, did that in Mexico. And I’m excited to do it here too.”

You can read the full story here.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

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PARTING WORDS

"Is it now that we have permission to speak? Well, I have always spoken."

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