Citi Paves Way for Women in Finance
The landscape around diversity, equity and inclusion is always evolving, but Titi Cole, CEO of Legacy Franchises at Citi, said she is proud that the Bank has put the right foundation and tools in place to continue driving progress despite all challenges.
“As the world’s most global bank, diversity is our strength,” said Cole.
“We’re committed to building a company where the best talent wants to work and where all people can reach their full potential,” she added.
Last year, Citi launched a global campaign inviting employees to self-identify their race and ethnicity, gender identities, sexual orientation, disability status and military status.
“By taking a data-driven approach we gain a better understanding of how our employees self-identify so that we can better meet their needs,” said Cole.
Leveraging this data, the Bank recently expanded its representation goals so that Citi better reflects the communities it serves and is a place “where all can thrive”, Cole said.
The Bank also continues to invest in and focus on addressing unconscious bias in the workplace, offering training that enables participants to understand the business case for an inclusive work environment, recognize unconscious bias and take actions to improve decision making.
“We continue to make progress but still have more work to do,” said Cole.
Gender equity is something Citi demonstrates from the very top of the organization. Jane Fraser is our first woman CEO — and was the first woman to lead a major global bank, said Cole, adding that four (25%) of their 16-person Executive Management Team are women and six (37.5%) are racially/ethnically diverse.
The Bank recently announced that it exceeded its three-year diversity representation goals and established broader and higher global diversity goals for 2022-2025.
Citi was also among the first financial services firms to achieve gender parity on its Board.
“Across the firm, there is tremendous momentum to build on our efforts to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture. We don’t just talk about diversity – we are committed to backing this up with actions,” Cole said.
“We continue to be transparent by publicly setting clear, measurable goals and holding ourselves accountable to attaining them, even when the road to get there might be challenging,” she added.
Citi was the first bank to disclose adjusted pay results five years ago, and in 2019 we became one of the first companies to disclose our unadjusted or “raw” pay gaps for both women and U.S. minorities.
Their results from early 2022 found that, on an adjusted basis, women globally are paid on average more than 99% of what men are paid at Citi, and that there was no statistically significant difference in adjusted compensation for U.S. minorities and non-minorities.
“By increasing diverse representation in higher-compensated roles, we can continue to work toward closing raw pay gaps,” Cole said.
In 2018, Citi set aspirational representation goals to increase women leadership globally and Black leadership in the U.S. by the end of 2021.
Cole said that the Bank achieved and exceeded these goals, increasing representation of women globally at the Assistant Vice President to Managing Director levels to 40.6% (up from 37% in 2018), and recently expanded this goal to 43.5% by 2025.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion factors, including the representation of women and racial/ethnic minorities, also continue to be included in senior executive scorecards to hold ourselves accountable for driving progress,” Cole said.
As a member of Citi’s Executive Management Team, Cole takes pride in helping to foster a culture that values diversity, equity and inclusion by setting a strong tone at the top.
“It goes beyond mentoring, sponsoring, hiring and promoting,” she said.
“I’m able to challenge system and structural barriers that may impede women, especially in taking on leadership roles – and advocate for establishing programs and policies that support women in the workplace,” she added.
Cole also actively sponsors Citi’s Black and Women’s Employee networks and leads events across the Bank and industry to help drive progress.
“Representation matters – and the more visible and vocal I am about changes in our industry, and my own experiences, the more young diverse talent can see themselves excelling in financial services,” she said.
Cole won Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion at the Markets Media Group’s U.S. Women in Finance Awards 2021. At that time she was Head of Global Operations and Fraud Prevention & Chief Client Officer, Global Consumer Banking. In February 2022, she became CEO of the Legacy Franchises organization, which was formed to house the consumer businesses the Bank intends to exit. As part of the firm’s strategy refresh, Citi previously announced that it will divest its consumer banking businesses in 14 markets in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Mexico.
As CEO of Legacy Franchises, Cole has the privilege of leading the 60,000 employees in the organization who deliver consumer and commercial banking services to over 25 million clients. She is responsible for running these businesses through the completion of the sales and transferring the businesses to the best possible buyers who will continue to grow the businesses and care for their employees and clients.
Her very first job in financial services was at a small commercial bank in Lagos, Nigeria in the Treasury management team. This was back in 1992, before the digital and technology revolution and when there was also more of a national versus global approach to financial services, she said. “There were very few women in senior leadership roles 30 years ago, so we’ve come a long way and are still making strides to create opportunity for the next generation,” Cole revealed.
She told Traders Magazine that over the past 30 years she has had “a very diverse and interesting career”.
Cole said she had strong role models in early childhood who showed her what was possible. Her mom raised five children, had an over 40-year career as a scientist and patient advocate, and continues to give back to her community. “Seeing her and other successful working women in my community in Nigeria planted the seed that I could achieve great things in my career and have a family,” she said.
Cole has also been fortunate to have mentors and sponsors throughout her careers who leaned in to encourage her, coach her and open doors. “They offered valuable advice at pivotal points in my career and gave critical feedback that shaped how I lead today,” she said.
Cole added that she has been willing to embrace change and step outside her comfort zone.
“Betting on myself when opportunities present themselves has kept me growing. It’s led me to move across the world, shift from P&L-focused roles to leading enterprise operations, and now to leading a globally dispersed team across Asia, EMEA and Mexico,” she said.
“Of course, you don’t do it all alone. Behind the scenes has been a strong support network of my husband, siblings, close friends and two sons,” she added.
According to the 2021 Women in the Workplace report released by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, women continue to face challenges within their first years of professional life, and becomes more and more dramatic as they move up the ranks.
“By the time we get to the C-Suite, only 1 in 4 C-suite executives is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of color!,” Cole stressed.
As a result of the pandemic, women are also prioritizing flexibility, which has made retaining talent even more difficult for the industry, she added.
Cole said that “more than ever, it’s important for all of us women who have made it into positions of power and authority to challenge and change the structural and systemic barriers to women and other diverse groups entering and succeeding in our industry”.
This could mean improving policies to provide more flexibility and support for working parents, building environments that are truly inclusive and welcoming to all, and paying it forward by mentoring and sponsoring the next generation of women, Cole said.
“In my mind, it’s less about making it to the top of the hill and passing down a rope or ladder for the next person, but about creating a multi-lane highway with room for all where there are no limits on potential,” she concluded.