Citi Investors May Need to Wait Another Year: Pandit

While Citigroup has managed to rebuild itself from the ruins of the financial crisis, investors likely will have to wait until 2012 to reap the rewards, CEO Vikram Pandit told CNBC.

Vikram Pandit
Vikram Pandit

Pandit touted moves the bank has made to streamline its operations—winding down Citi Holdings, selling assets and improving efficiency in its global operations. The holding company was separated from Citi's general operations to get rid of the toxic assets that remained on the company balance sheet.

But he said more work needs to be done, indicating that investors probably will have to wait a year for the dividend to be restored or a share buyback program.

"We've been very clear we think 2012 is the year to look forward to," Pandit said. "It's important...that we meet all the Basel (capital requirements) and we meet them in full force, and use that as a platform to start returning capital to our shareholders."

Pandit spoke as the federal government is unwinding the last vestiges of the $45 billion bailout it executed for the banking giant.

Where once the company symbolized US dominance of the banking industry, it ultimately came to represent, along with a handful of other Wall Street titans, the reckless largesse that brought the financial system to its kneesin 2008 and 2009.

Pandit himself has undergone a metamorphosis, from a manager criticized as being out of tune with the restructuring needs of Citi to one who has managed to steer the bank to relative safety—helped also by the government's willingness to backstop such too-big-to-fail institutions.

"While we think the markets are increasingly recognizing who we are, we've got some ways to go," he said. The company has made progression in its global business and trading arms and will "have the market appreciate even more what Citi is," he added.

The company to some extent will be at the mercy of the global economy and how well unemployment and housing are addressed.

Both areas should recover in the time ahead, Pandit said.

"The housing market usually takes a little bit longer and that is not only today's phenomena, that's been true whenever there have been housing cycles," he said. "The key, key indicator for us is to watch how businesses do, how they grow, how they invest, and that is going to create jobs."

Citi's shares have traveled the gamut over the past 10 years and are less than one-tenth their all-time high. Still, the stock has gained more than 31 percent in the past year, easily outperforming its peers and the Standard & Poor's 500.

"We've had to go through some trying times to get there," Pandit said. "Now that we're here I feel very good about how we're positioned."