Born in Scotland, Ms. Fraser, 53, got her start in finance in the 1990s, working at Goldman Sachs in London at the age of 20 before attending Harvard Business School. She joined Citi in 2004, working her way up through several of the bank’s biggest divisions and developing the kind of well-rounded experience that is looked for in C.E.O.s.
She is keen to apply lessons learned in other countries to challenges facing the U.S. For instance, Ms. Fraser sees an opportunity to introduce banking services to more people in the United States by implementing certain programs that Citi has successfully run in Mexico, India and China. In Mexico, Citi started a system that allows people to transfer money using QR codes scanned by smartphones; anyone sending or receiving less than $400 can use it for free. Digital payments systems can increase financial inclusion by allowing people without bank accounts to send and receive money.
Ms. Fraser also plans to continue a collaboration with Google, started by Mr. Corbat, in which the internet giant offers low-cost bank accounts and payment services using Citi’s plumbing. She said it could be a way to bring poor Americans into the banking system and keep them away from predatory businesses like check-cashing shops and payday lenders.
Ms. Fraser, who will be the first woman to lead a major American bank, is well aware that she is making history. And she will have to navigate the widespread perception — backed by research — that women in top corporate roles are more often given cleanup jobs, especially given Citi’s problems.
Catherine Tinsley, a professor of management at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, said researchers had found that corporate boards were more likely to appoint women to positions of power — as leaders or to positions on boards — if their companies were struggling.
“If they are usually more likely to be given a try when a company’s in trouble, then it makes their positions more precarious,” Ms. Tinsley said. For instance, Ginni Rometty was handed what many on Wall Street agreed was a tough turnaround assignment when she became C.E.O. of IBM in 2012. And when Mary T. Barra was put in charge of General Motors, becoming the first woman to lead one of the major U.S. automakers, she was tasked with righting its course four years after it had declared bankruptcy.
Ms. Fraser said her gender should not matter. Her management style is centered on empathy and is not much different from her predecessor’s, she said.
“When you get the job you don’t think of this in terms of: ‘OK, I’m a woman getting a job,’” she said. “You think about: What is it that the company needs today? What needs to be the same? I certainly have a different style, but I don’t think it’s necessarily so much gender-related.”
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