Gary Crittenden knew it would be a challenge when he moved in March 2007 to become the Citigroup Inc. CFO after serving seven years in that job at American Express Co. Despite the girth of American Express, it pales beside a behemoth like Citi, with revenues and income five times those of Amex and a complex global network of facilities, employees and clients. But even Crittenden will admit that whatever he reckoned then about the trials he would face were, to say the least, an understatement of what the job has turned out to be. Nine months after Crittenden arrived at Citi's 399 Park Avenue headquarters, his new employer has become enmeshed in the meltdown of the subprime debt market. Citi's third-quarter results were not only markedly lower than they had been in prior quarters, they could be followed, Citi suggested, by even further reductions in the fourth quarter--a disappointment that contributed to the resignation of its CEO and chairman.
Left to face the hounds of Wall Street were the new chairman and former Secretary of Treasury Robert Rubin--and Crittenden, who early on gained a reputation for his candor. "The first thing I learned is to be as transparent as you possibly can about what the exposures are so that people can make their own judgments about how those exposures will move in different environments," Crittenden explains. "What we can't judge is how the environment will change, [but] what we can do is talk about the magnitude of the exposures in various business lines."