“Win is not seen as a change agent,” said Alison J. Carnwath, a veteran City figure who has worked with Mr. Bischoff. “He is a builder, a consensus guy — someone who can get people to work together. But he is not seen as someone who will effect change.”
Mr. Bischoff was tapped to steer Lloyds toward recovery after the former chief executive, Victor Blank, was ousted last month for arranging an ill-fated takeover of HBOS, a British bank whose troubles hobbled Lloyds.
But Mr. Bischoff has a lot to prove. His brief tenure as the chairman of Citigroup , which he joined in 2000, came to a humiliating end in January, when he was replaced by Richard D. Parsons. Although Mr. Bischoff was always meant to be a caretaker, his lack of influence in Washington and perceptions that he took a largely back seat role in the bank’s daily affairs compromised his effectiveness, as the financial crisis pushed Citigroup toward the abyss.
Now, getting a call for help from his own British government, which owns 43 percent of Lloyds, may provide a chance to secure a measure of redemption after his final tumultuous year at Citigroup.
The question of who should lead the fallen banks that now have governments as their largest shareholder has vexed regulators on both sides of the Atlantic.
At Citigroup, where American taxpayers hold a 36 percent stake, regulators have expressed doubts privately about whether Vikram S. Pandit, the chief executive, has the vision and heft to reinvent the financial behemoth.
And at Bank of America , which also received billions in bailout money, it remains uncertain whether Kenneth D. Lewis, already stripped of his chairman title, commands enough support to continue overseeing his bank’s halting recovery.
An early test of Mr. Bischoff’s leadership is likely to come when the European Commission presses Lloyds to reduce its size, both for competitive reasons and to reduce the risk from banks considered too big to fail.
Mr. Bischoff, 68, declined to comment for this article. But his many friends and supporters here say they believe he will fare better on his home turf of London than he did in the United States.
“Win inspires people, and that should stand him in good stead at Lloyds,” said Ms. Carnwath, who worked with Mr. Bischoff closely when he was at Schroders, which he ran until it was acquired by Citigroup in 2000.
Mr. Bischoff’s clout seemed to qualify him for the role of Citigroup’s interim chief executive in November 2007, when Charles O. Prince III stepped down after billions of dollars of subprime losses mounted on his watch. After Robert E. Rubin, Citigroup’s lead director at the time, declined to take over, the bank turned to Mr. Bischoff, who was then the chairman of Citigroup Europe.
At Citigroup, Mr. Bischoff’s central accomplishment was recognizing immediately the need to raise equity. Within weeks of taking over, he and Mr. Rubin secured $7.5 billion from Abu Dhabi. Early in 2008, Citi tapped the markets again, a decision that, at the time, was not widely supported inside the bank.
“Win does not shirk when the ball goes into the rough,” said Robert Swannell, a senior adviser at Citi Europe. “He recognized early on that there was a need for equity.”
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But the subsequent infighting took its toll on Mr. Bischoff, and his departure was preceded by months of leaks to reporters and unattributed sniping from Citigroup board members.
Although he kept quiet, he was angry and frustrated, associates say. He privately told some of his closest friends that the experience was an undeserved blot on an otherwise distinguished career in finance, which included a long run as the chief executive of Schroders, the venerable London bank.
Despite his handsome shock of white hair, his bespoke suits and handmade Hong Kong shirts initialed WFWB, and a ruddy face that can shade pink, Mr. Bischoff, according to those who know him, belies the stereotype of an aristocratic banker.
“He is not at all the stuffy Brit,” said Richard Roberts, a financial historian and the author of “Schroders: Merchants and Bankers.” “Bischoff was a true internationalist — he rolled up his sleeves and got on with it.”