Citigroup to raise card rates, cut jobs

Citigroup Center in New York City

TEXT OF STORY

If you've ever worked at a company in trouble, you know it's never a good thing when the boss calls an all hands meeting. Welcome to Citigroup come 8 o'clock Monday morning. In a company-wide e-mail today, CEO Vikram Pandit told employees he wants to talk about Citi's accomplishments since he took over almost a year ago. But it might be worth going back farther than that to, say, 1995.

Shares of Citigroup, one of the biggest banks in the world, closed today at a level not seen in 13 years. It's lost money four quarters running. Twenty-three thousand jobs have already been cut, with rumors of tens of thousands more coming. And a new tactic that might affect you even if you don't work there.

Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson has more from New York.


Jeremy Hobson: Citigroup plans to start raising interest rates on credit cards for some of its customers. The move is intended to make up for a decline in credit card revenue due to fewer offers going out and smaller payments coming in. It's perfectly legal, but analysts say an interest rate hike of a few percentage points won't solve Citi's problems, problems made worse because of where many of Citi's consumer deposits are.

Felix Salmon: One of the huge differences between Citibank and any other American bank is that most of Citibank's deposits are abroad./p>

Felix Salmon writes the finance blog at Portfolio.com.

Salmon: That means they're not insured by the FDIC and that means that the people who have money on deposit with Citibank have good reason to want to move that money somewhere safer.

And with an ever tumbling stock price, Salmon says, a run on the bank becomes much more likely. That's why Citi's unsuccessful offer to buy Wachovia was such a big deal. Citi wanted more branches in the U.S. so it could hold more FDIC-insured deposits. Eileen Fahey is a managing director at Fitch Ratings. She says Citi is now at a competitive disadvantage because other U.S. banks have acquired their rivals.

Eileen Fahey: All of those benefiting from larger deposit bases in the U.S. and Citigroup's been challenged on that front.

The challenges appear more dire by the day. A number of Citi's executives reportedly bought over a million shares of the company's stock yesterday. That wasn't enough to boost the value or investor confidence that Citi can rebound on its own.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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