Citi Names Amex’s Crittenden CFO

The move could put Crittenden on the short list for Prince's job at Citigroup.
Stephen TaubFebruary 26, 2007

Citigroup named Gary Crittenden Chief Financial Officer, effective March 12, 2007. He was formerly executive vice president and CFO and head of Global Network Services at the American Express Co.

American Express, which said it was informed by Crittenden on Friday of his decision to leave, quickly moved to name Dan Henry as executive vice president and acting CFO, effective immediately. The company added that it will consider both internal and external candidates in its search for a permanent CFO.

Citi had been searching for a CFO since late January, when Sallie Krawcheck relinquished her title as CFO to become chairman and chief executive of the company’s Global Wealth Management Division, replacing Todd Thomson, who left the company amid questions over his relationship with CNBC reporter Maria Bartiromo.

“Gary has demonstrated an exceptional ability to help the organizations he has worked for,” said Citi Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Charles Prince, in a statement. “He has distinguished himself as one of the leading chief financial officers in business today, most recently through his tremendous contributions to American Express’ consistent performance.”

Prince praised Crittenden for his “proven record and expertise” in strategic financial management and “substantial experience” in the consumer business. Reuters pointed out that after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks cut into travel spending, Crittenden helped American Express cut costs, revamp its rewards program, spin off its brokerage unit, and become one of the top performing companies in the finance sector, noting its nearly 35 percent return on equity in 2006.

The Wall Street Journal stressed in its online edition that in his new position, Crittenden will be facing a tight interest-rate environment, as the difference between short-term and long-term rates is very narrow, which makes it harder for banks to make money on loans. This tightening margin comes amid news that some consumers and businesses are showing signs trouble regarding paying off their loans and other debt. “It’s a highly complex task,” Crittenden acknowledged to the Journal. But, “if you do what I do, this is just about the best CFO job in the world.”

By accepting the CFO post at Citi, it’s likely that Crittenden has made the short list of candidates to eventually succeed Prince. Crittenden has a reputation for being methodical and well-versed, noted the Journal. For example, while at American Express, Crittenden, rather than the CEO, ran the quarterly earnings conference call with investors.

In fact, the paper stressed that Citi’s new finance chief has strong relationships with American Express’s large institutional shareholders. “I view his hire as positive,” said analyst Joseph Dickerson, according to the report. Dickerson follows both Citigroup and American Express for Atlantic Equities in London. “I am not convinced the CFO role at Citi will lay a clear path to CEO successorship, but Gary is certainly competent enough,” he told the Journal.

Prior to joining American Express in June 2000 as executive vice president and CFO, Crittenden served as CFO of Monsanto from 1998 to 2000. He also was CFO for Sears Roebuck & Co. from 1997 to 1998 after heading Sears’ Hardware Stores business. Crittenden also serves on the boards of UPS and Staples.

Meanwhile, American Express announced that Henry will serve as a key advisor on strategic and financial matters, and represent the company to investors, lenders and rating agencies.” We are fortunate to have a leader of Dan Henry’s caliber to take on the role of acting CFO,” said Kenneth Chenault, chairman and chief executive, in a statement. “He brings an outstanding track record of accomplishments, management experience and judgment to the task.”

Henry, who joined the company in 1990 as comptroller, has held leadership roles at American Express’s largest business segment, the U.S. Card Services unit, for the past six years.