Citibank is the consumer division of financial services multinational Citigroup. Citibank was founded in 1812 as the City Bank of New York, later First National City Bank of New York.
Citibank is a global bank with 3,777 branch locations in 36 countries. The United States is the largest single market with approximately 26% of branches, generating 51% of revenues. Citibank’s 983 North American branches are concentrated in major metropolitan areas including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Miami, Boston, Houston, and Dallas. Latin America markets make up 25% of revenues, Asia 20%, and Europe / Middle East / Africa 4%.
In addition to standard banking transactions, Citibank markets insurance, credit cards, and investment products. Their online services division is among the most successful in the field, claiming about 15 million users.
As a result of the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 and huge losses in the value of its subprime mortgage assets, Citibank was bailed out by aid from the U.S. government. On November 23, 2008, in addition to initial aid of $25 billion, a further $25 billion was invested in the corporation together with guarantees for risky assets amounting to $306 billion. Since this time, Citibank has repaid its government loans in full, resulting in a net profit for the U.S. government.
The City Bank of New York was founded on June 16, 1812. The first president of the City Bank was the statesman and retired Colonel, Samuel Osgood. Ownership and management of the bank was taken over by Moses Taylor, a protégé of John Jacob Astor and one of the giants of the business world in the 19th century. During Taylor’s ascendancy, the bank functioned largely as a treasury and finance center for Taylor’s own extensive business empire.
In 1863, the bank joined the U.S.’s new national banking system and became The National City Bank of New York. By 1868, it was one of the largest banks in the United States, and in 1897, it became the first major U.S. bank to establish a foreign department.
When the Federal Reserve Act allowed it, National City Bank became the first U.S. national bank to open an overseas banking office when it opened a branch in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1914. Many of Citi’s present international offices are older; offices in London, Shanghai, Calcutta, and elsewhere were opened in 1901 and 1902 by the International Banking Corporation (IBC), a company chartered to conduct banking business outside the U.S., which was forbidden to U.S. national banks. In 1918, IBC became a wholly owned subsidiary and was subsequently merged into the bank. By 1919, the bank had become the first U.S. bank to have $1 billion in assets.
Charles E. Mitchell was elected president in 1921 and in 1929 was made chairman, a position he held until 1933. Under Mitchell the bank expanded rapidly and by 1930 had 100 branches in 23 countries outside the United States. The policies pursued by the bank under Mitchell’s leadership are seen by historical economists as one of the prime causes of the stock market crash of 1929, which led ultimately to the Great Depression. In 1933 a Senate committee, the Pecora Commission, investigated Mitchell for his part in tens of millions of dollars in losses, excessive pay, and tax avoidance. Senator Carter Glass said of him: “Mitchell, more than any 50 men, is responsible for this stock crash.”
On December 24, 1927, its headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were blown up by the Italian anarchist Severino Di Giovanni, in the frame of the international campaign supporting Sacco and Vanzetti.
In 1952, James Stillman Rockefeller was elected president and then chairman in 1959, serving until 1967. Stillman was a direct descendant of the Rockefeller family through the William Rockefeller (the brother of John D.) branch. In 1960, his second cousin, David Rockefeller, became president of Chase Manhattan Bank, National City’s long-time New York rival for dominance in the banking industry in the United States.
Following its merger with the First National Bank in 1955, the bank changed its name to The First National City Bank of New York, then shortened it to First National City Bank in 1962.
The company organically entered the leasing and credit card sectors, and its introduction of US dollar denominated certificates of deposit in London marked the first new negotiable instrument in the market since 1888. Later to become part of MasterCard, the bank introduced its First National City Charge Service credit card – popularly known as the “Everything Card” – in 1967.
In 1976, under the leadership of CEO Walter B. Wriston, First National City Bank (and its holding company First National City Corporation) was renamed Citibank, N.A. (and Citicorp, respectively). By that time, the bank had created its own “one-bank holding company” and had become a wholly owned subsidiary of that company, Citicorp (all shareholders of the bank had become shareholders of the new corporation, which became the bank’s sole owner).
The name change also helped to avoid confusion in Ohio with Cleveland-based National City Bank, though the two would never have any significant overlapping areas except for Citi credit cards being issued in the latter National City territory. (In addition, at the time of the name change to Citicorp, National City of Ohio was mostly a Cleveland-area bank and had not gone on its acquisition spree that it would later go on in the 1990s and 2000s.) Any possible name confusion had Citi not changed its name from National City eventually became completely moot when PNC Financial Services acquired the National City of Ohio in 2008 as a result of the subprime mortgage crisis.
Automated banking card
Shortly afterward, the bank launched the Citicard, which allowed customers to perform all transactions without a passbook. Branches also had terminals with simple one-line displays that allowed customers to get basic account information without a bank teller. When automatic teller machines (ATMs) were later introduced, customers could use their existing Citicard.
Credit card business
In the 1960s the bank entered into the credit card business. In 1965, First National City Bank bought Carte Blanche from Hilton Hotels. Three years later, the bank (under pressure from the U.S. government) sold this division. By 1968, the company created its own credit card. The card, known as “The Everything Card”, was promoted as a kind of East Coast version of the BankAmericard. By 1969, First National City Bank decided that the Everything Card was too costly to promote as an independent brand and joined Master Charge (now MasterCard). Citibank unsuccessfully tried again in 1977–1987 to create a separate credit card brand, the Choice Card.
John S. Reed was selected CEO in 1984, and Citi became a founding member of the CHAPS clearing house in London. Under his leadership, the next 14 years would see Citibank become the largest bank in the United States, the largest issuer of credit cards and charge cards in the world, and expand its global reach to over 90 countries.
As the bank’s expansion continued, the Narre Warren-Caroline Springs credit card company was purchased in 1981. In 1981, Citibank chartered a South Dakota subsidiary to take advantage of new laws that raised the state’s maximum permissible interest rate on loans to 25 percent (then the highest in the nation). In many other states, usury laws prevented banks from charging interest that aligned with the extremely high costs of lending money in the late 1970s and early 1980s, making consumer lending unprofitable. Currently, there is no maximum interest rate or usury restriction under South Dakota law when a written agreement is formed.
Early technology adoption
Automatic teller machines
In the 1970s Citibank was one of the first U.S. banks to introduce automatic teller machines, in order to give 24-hour access to accounts. Customers could use their existing Citicard in this machine to withdraw cash and make deposits. In April 2006, Citibank struck a deal with 7-Eleven to put its ATMs in more than 6,700 convenience stores in the United States.
Citibank.com was registered in 1991, existing on the internet years before the world wide web was launched. At the time, it was used for email and other internet interactions, but as early as 1995, Citibank pioneered online access to accounts. At first access was through proprietary software distributed on a 3½-inch floppy. Following the creation of the world wide web, Citibank offered browser-based access as well. This makes Citibank one of the longest term commercial/financial residents of both the internet and the world wide web.
Citibank’s major presence in California is fairly recent. The bank had only a handful of branches in that state before acquiring the assets of California Federal Bank in 2002 with Citicorp’s purchase of Golden State Bancorp which had earlier merged with First Nationwide Mortgage Corp.
In 2001, Citibank settled a $45 million class action lawsuit for improperly assessing late fees. Following this Citibank lobbied the United States Congress to pass legislation that would limit class action lawsuits to $5 million unless they were initiated on a federal level. Some consumer advocate websites report that Citibank is still improperly assessing late fees.
In August 2004, Citibank entered the Texas market with the purchase of First American Bank of Bryan, Texas. The deal established Citi’s retail banking presence in Texas, giving Citibank over 100 branches, $3.5 billion in assets and approximately 120,000 new customers in the state. First American Bank was renamed Citibank Texas after the take-over was completed on March 31, 2005.
In 2008, Citibank was crowned Deal of the Year – Securitisation Deal of the Year at the 2008 ALB Japan Law Awards.
In 2011, Citigroup announced plans to expand into the metropolitan areas of Atlanta and Seattle. However, to date, these plans have not come to fruition. Citi has not confirmed nor denied whether these plans were scrapped or are still in the works.
It was announced on November 13, 2006, that Citibank would be the corporate sponsor of the new stadium for the New York Mets. The stadium, Citi Field, opened in 2009.
2008–2009 losses and cost-cutting measures
Citi reported losing $8–11 billion several days after Merrill Lynch announced that it too had been losing billions from the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States.
On April 11, 2007, the parent Citi announced staff cuts and relocations.
On November 4, 2007, Charles Prince quit as the chairman and chief executive of Citigroup, following crisis meetings with the board in New York in the wake of billions of dollars in losses related to subprime lending. Former United States Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin took over the chairmanship, subsequently hiring Vikram Pandit as chief executive.
In January 2008 Citibank sold its branches in Puerto Rico to Popular, Inc.
In August 2008, after a three-year investigation by California’s Attorney General Citibank was ordered to repay the $14 million (close to $18 million including interest and penalties) that was removed from 53,000 customers accounts over an 11-year period from 1992 to 2003. The money was taken under an electronic “account sweeping program” where any positive balances from over-payments or double payments were removed without notice to the customers.
On November 23, 2008, Citigroup was forced to seek federal financing to avoid a collapse similar to those suffered by its competitors Bear Stearns and AIG. The U.S. government provided $25 billion and guarantees to risky assets to Citigroup in exchange for stock. This was one of a series of companies receiving financial aid from the government that began with Bear Stearns and peaked with the collapse of Lehman, AIG, and the GSE’s, and the start of the TARP program.
On January 16, 2009, Citigroup announced that it was splitting into two businesses. Citicorp will continue with the traditional banking business while Citi Holdings Inc. operates non-core businesses such as brokerage, asset management, and local consumer finance as well as managing a set of higher-risk assets. The split was presented as allowing Citibank to concentrate on its core banking business. On October 19, 2011, Citigroup agreed to $285 million civil fraud penalty. In 2013, Citibank was awarded Global Bank of the Year in The Banker’s annual awards.