Citi's Back-Office Costs Face Knife

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Achieving operational efficiencies - which inevitably means further headcount reductions - formed the core of Citigroup's three-year turnaround strategy unveiled Friday by Chief Executive Vikram Pandit.

In its bid to revive revenue and profit growth, the bank plans to continue selling non-core businesses, to the tune of $400 billion - $500 billion within three years, or about 20 percent of its present asset base.

In terms of human assets and human liabilities to be shed, Pandit didn't give specific numbers Friday in his presentation to investors and analysts. But he and top aides left little doubt that the workforce is set to shrink further - especially in back-office areas such as information technology.

For instance, Pandit indicated that Citi's 16 separate database centers, which employ about 25,000 people, could be combined into just two or three centers, according to The Wall Street Journal's account of the meeting. He portrayed such consolidation as unfinished business from the 1998 merger that created Citigroup out of the former Citicorp and Travelers.

An Associated Press report on the meeting said Citi's 9 percent annual revenue growth target "will derive largely from cutting costs -- which Chief Financial Officer Gary Crittenden said will mean more job reductions," beyond the 13,200 slots eliminated since last summer.

Last month, top executives at Citi reportedly consulted Hewlett-Packard about both IT issues and broad business strategy. Citi's brain trust reportedly views the computer and printer maker's experience of absorbing Compaq as a possible road map for its own turnaround effort.

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