Vikram Pandit & his annual reports

The September issue of Portfolio magazine carries an interesting profile on Vikram Pandit. Nine months into his role as CEO of Citigroup, Pandit is the subject of a spate of recent news articles probing whether he is up to the job (or whether Citigroup is too enormously complex to fix).

The electrical engineering grad and PhD in Finance (see bio) “has researched his plan to fix Citigroup with a focus bordering on obsession,” Portfolio says, including reading Citi annual reports that go back to 1956. Explaining his interest in a half-century’s worth of annual reports, Pandit comments:

With any organization that’s been around for 200 years, it has a history and culture. It develops a unique DNA in many ways. To get a clear sense of that picture has been very important to me.

You have to admire the recognition that history and culture matter, even in a gigantic business organization. People working up and down the corporate ranks do have some sense of heritage, “a unique DNA,” however mixed those stories may become through innumerable mergers, de-mergers and changes of strategy. Looking into what made a company great may help lead a CEO in charting the path forward to future greatness.

As an IR practitioner, I found the use of annual reports as a chronicle of corporate DNA intriguing – and challenging. Beyond the numbers, each year’s report to investors is an opportunity to capture and describe the life force of a company, not only the business strategy buy also the personality and human drive, that ultimately produces the financial performance investors are seeking. Long-term investors often are betting on that DNA.

(Endnote: Thanks to BankStocks.com’s blog for alerting me to this profile.)

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