To be a prominent face of Wall Street at a time when banks are feeling the heat from federal authorities on a number of fronts clearly has its drawbacks. Mr. Corbat's counterpart at rival JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, has been widely viewed as the point man for the bank as it wrestles with investigations by at least seven federal agencies, several state regulators and two foreign nations. And under Mr. Dimon, JPMorgan has in just a few years gone from a Washington favorite to a magnet for government scrutiny.
The low-key approach taken by Citigroup — which faces a number of investigations of its own — has not gone unnoticed inside JPMorgan. Some board members and executives there have recently pointed to Mr. Corbat in privately discussing the apparent advantages of a more self-effacing approach in a chief executive.
The perks of a lower profile have become clear to Mr. Dimon, too, according to people close to him who note he has recently refrained from giving interviews to focus, in part, on client meetings.
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JPMorgan's board, of course, remains solidly behind Mr. Dimon. But at least two directors, people close to the board say, have also privately acknowledged that Mr. Dimon's previous offhandedness toward authorities — including his referring several years ago to the former Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner as "Timmy" — at times rankled regulators, adding to the steep challenge the bank faces as it now tries to mend those frayed relationships.
Some bank lawyers say Mr. Corbat's quiet, workmanlike persona may be better suited to the current regulatory environment.
He is also proof, say people close to JPMorgan, that a skilled but relatively unknown insider can run a large, complex financial institution, helping dispel a view that Mr. Dimon will be nearly impossible to replace as chief when he leaves the bank.
To be sure, it is not as easy for Mr. Dimon, given his long tenure on Wall Street, to fly under the radar. For his part, he has recently adopted a more contrite tone with Washington, and has apologized for letting down regulators, vowing to bolster controls at JPMorgan.
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"We are building a more open and transparent relationship with our regulators," Mr. Dimon said in a September memo to employees.
To help change the tenor of his relationship with regulators, Mr. Dimon held town-hall style meetings in May and June, convening authorities from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
And the bank's recent $13 billion settlement does put some of its most troublesome legacy issues behind it. Yet JPMorgan continues to face investigations, including a roughly $6 billion trading loss in London last year and the hiring of well-connected employees in China.
At the same time, Citigroup's favor within regulatory circles has grown — while its presence in the headlines has dwindled — since Mr. Corbat took the reins last year.
The change for Citigroup has been swift. Before Mr. Corbat took over, for example, the Fed dealt an embarrassing setback to the bank in 2012, when it failed the bank on the so-called stress test, an important measure of financial health, rejecting its proposal to buy back its shares.
Just a year later, however, with Mr. Corbat at the helm, the bank handily passed the stress test. Its stock is up more than 40 percent since he took the top job.
Wall Street has long been a breeding ground for executives with big, often brash, personalities.
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