Mad Money

Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat talks regaining credibility and finding growth by scaling down

Key Points
  • "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer speaks with Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat to hear about his company's recent efforts to revive its business.
  • Corbat says that by scaling back its consumer markets and client base, Citigroup has actually put itself in a better position to grow.
  • As technology continues to bolster everyday business, Corbat hopes his bank can seize on digital payments.
Citi CEO Corbat: We've been repairing a lot of relationships

Following Citigroup's first investor day since the 2008 recession, CEO Michael Corbat said his bank has been primarily focused on positioning itself to take advantage of a changing industry.

"We've repaired a lot of relationships," Corbat told "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer on Wednesday. "From a credit perspective, from an earnings perspective, from a business model perspective, we put the company through a massive restructuring, and now we're showing what the company can do."

Corbat said the goal has been to bring Citi back to its roots as a bank, done in part by exiting dozens of secondary businesses and scaling back some $800 million in core assets.

"If you look at how we've defined growth, we've gone from 60 consumer markets to 40, we've gone from covering 32,000 institutional clients to 14," the CEO said. "We think, within our own target client base, there's plenty of growth."

On top of that, Corbat said the bank aims to return at least $20 billion in capital to its shareholders via dividend increases and share buybacks in the next two years.

That said, Citi is no less involved in financial markets. Dubbing his bank "the largest mover of money in the world" as well as the largest global issuer of credit cards, Corbat suggested that with its efficient capital structure, Citi could lead the world into the next era of payments.

"Think about it: the world's largest mover of money, the world's biggest payment company. Think of the big data that we generate and the information we get and the view we get," he told Cramer. "We've got 120 million consumers who interact with us. We've got companies, governments, universities. We see all their flows. And our ability to take that data and use it ... and the investments we're making in technology we think pave the way for the future."

Corbat said that when Citi's management first set the goal of being "the best digital bank," they quickly amended that vision when they realized that everything in banking would eventually be digital.

Now, as financial companies from PayPal to Goldman Sachs race to capitalize on digital payment methods, Corbat finds Citigroup in a good spot to seize on those developments.

"We've got, probably, the best fintech laboratory in the world," the CEO said. "Three, four, five years from now, we're not going to be talking about credit cards. We're just going to be talking about digital payments."

And as the company undergoes employee churn, letting go of roughly 40,000 employees but adding 9,000 in its regulation and compliance division, Corbat said the focus remains on using technology to drive business.

"I would say that those areas, like many areas in banking today, remain ripe for the introduction of technology to help us and make us smarter. Artificial intelligence, robotics, all of those things we're using today, and we think there's a terrific trajectory in terms of how we can use them in the future."

Watch Corbat's full interview here:

Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat talks regaining credibility and finding growth by scaling down

Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Citigroup.

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