Jane Fraser, the executive who broke the glass ceiling of America’s big banks

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Starting in February 2021, she will be the CEO of Citigroup and will become the first woman to head an entity on Wall Street.

When Jane Fraser speaks, she does so calmly and conveys serenity to her audience. The Citigroup executive told a group of women at a conference in Miami in 2016 that her career advancement had been the opposite: a turbulent journey with tough decisions for a woman at every step. “They always ask me ‘can you have it all?’ and the answer is ‘yes, you can’, but you can’t have it all at the same time, ”he shared with the attendees. The height of these ambivalent decisions came this week when Fraser (Scotland, UK, 1967) was appointed as the new CEO of Citigroup. Starting in February 2021, she will take over from Michael Corbat as head of the entity and will become the first woman in charge of a large bank in the United States. A milestone for Wall Street.

Fraser began his career in his early 20s at Goldman Sachs, where he landed his first job as a financial analyst. She graduated from Cambridge University and Harvard Business School to begin her experience in financial institutions, when women did not yet hold high positions. “They practically dressed like men, in costumes that were horrible and none of them were happy.” She spent a couple of years in Spain to learn Spanish and worked for Asesores Burstiles in Madrid. “I just thought that Spain was going to be more fun than Germany,” he told about his decision at the forum held by the Americas Society.

Fully involved in the financial sector, Fraser worked at McKinsey & Company since 1994 and began to take risks. The same year that she launched for a promotion as a partner of the firm, she became pregnant. She got the job, but only worked half-days while raising her two young children. “There is nothing like having children to help you understand where your priorities are,” she recalls. With her job promotion on hold, Fraser began to explore her interest in globalization in the banking world, and a Citigroup executive signed her in 2004 to head retail banking.

The next president of Citigroup has brought her global vision to the firm and made the right turns in the most difficult moments. After the bubble burst in 2008, she was part of the team tasked with restructuring the bank and a few years later became the executive advisor for mortgages, where she was able to see first-hand the consequences of the financial crisis. In 2014, she was appointed slim advisor for Latin America and had in her hands the mission of redirecting Banamex, the Mexican subsidiary of Citigroup, after the millionaire fraud that an energy company carried out through the institution. Since October 2019, she has been the global head of consumer banking.

Fraser has recognized that along the way she has doubted herself: “I’m not comfortable until I’m 100% ready for something,” she acknowledges. But she says that an important role for her promotion has been that her husband, Cuban executive Alberto Piedra, decided to leave his professional career also in the banking sector at Dresdner Kleinwort to take care of the family, when Fraser’s career advancement at Citigroup was imminent. After more than 20 years in the financial world, the executive has confessed that it has taken her a while to overcome the fear of not feeling ready to undertake a task, but that her mentors have encouraged her to develop her talents and not let herself be overcome by uncertainty . “You don’t just have to do the work, you have to learn how to influence the conversation.”

Citigroup is the fourth largest US bank by assets and had seven women on its 16-member board. Fraser will be the eighth and will have a seat at the table. At the head of the entity, she will have to overcome, like most banks, the economic crisis caused by the advance of the coronavirus. In the last quarter, Citigroup built up $ 5.6 billion in reserves to protect itself from bad loans.

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