As Citigroup (NYSE: C) continues to rebound from the depths of the financial crisis, the firm has sought to shed assets and rebuild its image. Part of that image transformation involves hiring well connected people to create business opportunities and improve corporate governance that former CEO Chuck Prince was never able to establish. This week, the bank took another step in that direction.
Citigroup has hired well-connected London lawyer Stuart Popham. Popham is expected to help strengthen the U.S. bank’s relationships with large British clients, the government and regulators. Popham withdrew from his position as a senior partner at top league law firm Clifford Chance at the end of 2010, and will be Citigroup’s vice chairman of EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Banking. Philip Robert-Tissot, head of Citigroup’s UK Broking and Banking commented “He brings an array of top-tier relationships, forged during his 34 years at Clifford Chance, as well as global expertise in finance and securities.”
Popham famously once said that he had only ever had one job interview in his life and has been dubbed “a class act” by colleagues, was described in 2008 as the “most connected lawyer in the City”, London’s financial district. Popham has been well connected politically, and accompanied British Prime Minister David Cameron and former premier Gordon Brown on trips to India and China to help represent British business. He is also a member of the CBI International Advisory Board, vice chairman of the London council of the CBI and chairs TheCityUK, which promotes UK financial services.
Citigroup has faced an uphill battle both domestically in the U.S., and abroad. After having accepted well over $100 billion in bailout funds, the stock price was pummeled as investors were diluted. With the recent news of a reverse stock split in their near future and restoration of dividends, the firms seems to be on the right track. The firm that Sandy Weill once built quickly became too big to manage after his departure, and as it sheds non core businesses the firm’s health seems to be improving, as evidenced by recent financial filings. Capitalizing on opportunities abroad will be a key to their growth strategy, as the saturated US market offers fewer opportunities than it has historically. Western Europe and Asia will be key growth areas for the firm. Hires like Popham may go a long way to finding new inroads and garnering important government support in key markets.