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Citigroup's Management Presents at Goldman Sachs 2013 Financial Services Conference (Transcript)

Citigroup Inc. (C) Goldman Sachs 2013 Financial Services Conference Call December 10, 2013 12:30 PM ET

Executives

John C. Gerspach – Chief Financial Officer

Unidentified Analyst

So next up we have Citigroup. Since John was here last December, Citi has made tremendous strides. It completed a very successful SICA process, where the Fed’s analysis showed, they have the most excess capital of any of the large cap banks, they reduced losses in Citi Holdings and they made considerable progress on the $1.1 billion restructuring plan, which John announced at this conference last year. John has been at Citigroup since 1990. He’s been in a variety of positions across the firm and I think he has been instrumental in some of the transformation that you’ve seen there.

So please join me in welcoming John to this conference and to the presentation. I think he’s going to talk for about 25 minutes and then there’ll be some time for Q&A. So John.

John C. Gerspach

Thank you very much, Richard.

Unidentified Analyst

Thank you.

John C. Gerspach

I appreciate it. 25 minutes okay, so now you give me a target to hit for. Good afternoon. Today I’d like to cover a few topics, including Citi’s recent results, how we are tracking on the financial targets we laid out for you earlier this year and finally our capital position as we go into 2014. While the revenue environment has been challenging in the back half of this year, we continued to make progress in the third quarter with expense control, credit quality and sustained capital generation. On a trailing 12-month basis, we have advanced towards our 2015 targets with improvements in Citicorp efficiency, return on tangible common equity and return on assets. Importantly, we are pleased to enter 2014 with a very strong capital position, with an estimated Basel III Tier 1 Common ratio of 10.5% as of the end of the third quarter and an estimated Supplementary Leverage Ratio above the proposed requirements at both the holding company and the bank level.

Let’s move on to slide – thank you. Starting with a brief review of our recent results on Slide 4. Low revenues in the third quarter reflected the slowdown in North America mortgages, ongoing repositioning actions in our Korea consumer franchise and the macro overhang on markets and banking stemming mostly from the uncertainty around the timing of Fed tapering and the pending government shutdown, again, that was back then. Against this backdrop, we continued to drive down expenses, credit costs also improved and our estimated Basel III Tier 1 Common ratio grew by 50 basis points, driven by retained earnings as well as DTA utilization.

Now, as we look to the fourth quarter, the capital markets environment remains somewhat muted with revenues tracking slightly below the same period last year, and in investment banking, quarter-to-date results are tracking better than the third quarter driven by M&A and equity underwriting. However, we expect to be down somewhat year-over-year given the strong debt underwriting revenues in the fourth quarter of last year. Core operating expenses should continue to trend somewhat lower in the fourth quarter, while legal and related costs are expected to remain elevated. Repositioning cost, they are likely to be a little higher than the recent quarters and somewhere in the range of $250 million.

As a reminder, in the third quarter, we benefited from an incremental loan loss reserve release of approximately $300 million in North America mortgages. We do not expect a similar incremental reserve release in the fourth quarter. Additionally, as we discussed in our last earnings call, we expect reserve releases to continue to trend lower in North America cards, particularly given the need to add reserves for new originations in the Best Buy portfolio. Of course, there is still a few weeks left in the quarter, so actual results may vary from our current expectations. Clearly, there are headwinds as we look to the fourth quarter, but we continue to focus on expenses and we maintain our favorable credit outlook with stable credit trends in Citicorp and continued improvement in the legacy mortgage portfolio.

Turning to Slide 5, we show Citigroup results since 2011. As you can see on the left, our return on assets has improved steadily to 70 basis points over the last 12 months, driven by earnings growth in Citicorp and a significantly reduced earnings drag from Citi Holdings. Citicorp earned nearly $16 billion over the last 12 months, while the loss in Citi Holdings was reduced to $2.5 billion. At the same time, we have shrunk our average balance sheet to just under $1.9 trillion and shifted the mix of assets from Citi Holdings to Citicorp.

Turning to Citicorp on Slide 6. Modest revenue growth and a decline in expenses have driven the Citicorp operating efficiency ratio from 63% in 2011 down to 59% for the most recent 12 months. This improvement in operating margin combined with lower net credit losses enabled us to grow Citicorp earnings and improve our return on assets, even as loan loss reserve releases significantly declined. Reserve releases contributed $5 billion to Citicorp’s pre-tax earnings in 2011, compared to roughly $700 million in the last 12 months. Over the same period, we grew net income by 10% and our return on assets improved to over 90 basis points.

Let me now turn to the operating businesses in Citicorp. Starting with Global Consumer Banking, internationally, we have grown volumes to more than offset the impact of global spread compression, resulting in consistent revenue growth each quarter for the last several years. In North America however, our top line growth has been more difficult, as we are absorbing the impact of lower mortgage refinancing activity, continued consumer deleveraging in cards and of course, the low interest rate environment. Despite these headwinds in North America and our continued investment in the franchise, our Global Consumer Banking expenses have remained in line with revenues for a relatively flat efficiency ratio of 54%.

We have also maintained our strong credit standards. While total credit provisions have grown in recent periods [indiscernible] lower net reserve releases as well as loan growth internationally. Since 2011, our international net credit losses have remained broadly stable as a percentage of loans, while North America has continued to recover, driving the total loss rate down from 3.8% to 2.6%. Lower reserve releases have put pressure on net income over the last 12 months however. The return on assets remained attractive at around 190 basis points.

Earlier this year, our CEO, Mike Corbat laid out a 2015 efficiency ratio target of 47% to 50% for our Global Consumer Banking. To improve our operating efficiency, we are exiting or restructuring underperforming businesses and reallocating resources to our core markets. In December last year, we announced five market exits in Turkey, Romania, Pakistan, Uruguay and Paraguay, which we have largely completed. We also identified restructure markets, where we believe we can improve results, while maintaining our presence.

In our core international markets, operating efficiency has improved over the last two years, from 59% in the first nine months of 2011 to 55% in 2013. However, this improvement has been offset by North America, where declining mortgage revenue has caused the efficiency ratio to increase to 48% so far this year. We have taken actions to resize our U.S. mortgage business, but only a portion of the expected savings has been realized to-date.

In our restructure and exit markets, the efficiency ratios are much higher, but have improved this year. While we do not currently anticipate additional market exits, we are highly focused on underperforming businesses, and if there is not a clear path to acceptable results, we would significantly scale back or exit certain markets.

On Slide 9, we show Securities & Banking, where both operating efficiency and returns have improved significantly. Our revenues over the last 12 months include the impact of the more challenging environment in the third quarter, particularly in fixed income. However, we have been able to offset some of this pressure with growth in both equities and investment banking.

These are higher ROA businesses, where we made targeted investments to gain share and diversify our franchise. Despite these investments, our annual operating expenses are down by nearly $1 billion versus 2011, as we continued to resize certain businesses, reduced headcount and maintain discipline on incentive compensation. Higher revenues and lower expenses drove a significant improvement in our efficiency ratio, down from 74% in 2011 to 59% over the last 12 months. As a result, net income also improved materially during – driving the return on assets in Securities & Banking to over 75 basis points.

Revenue and efficiency improvements have proved more challenging in Transaction Services, where higher volumes and fee income has been offset by spread compression. As we’ve continued to invest in the franchise, our efficiency ratio has remained flat to 2011 at 55%. Although we continue to believe, we can achieve positive operating leverage for the second half of this year, which should drive the efficiency ratio somewhat lower for the full year 2013.

At the same time, we have increased our average assets in Transaction Services driven by trade loan growth. While our ROA has declined, the returns remain attractive at over 200 basis points. We also believe the investments that we are making today, growing our client relationships and volumes, position us well for profitable growth when the rate environment improves.

On Slide 11, we show expense and efficiency trends for our total institutional franchise, giving a clear picture of how we are managing our expense base over time. On a trailing 12-month basis, we have lowered our operating expenses every quarter for the past two years, even as revenues have grown, driving our efficiency ratio down by 10% from the end of 2011 to 57% today. While there is still work to do on optimizing our expense base, we believe these efficiency ratios compare favorably to both our U.S. and Global Banking peers.

Turning now to Citi Holdings, where we have made significant progress in reducing both the assets and the earnings drag. We ended the third quarter of 2013 with assets of $122 billion in Citi Holdings or about 6% of Citigroup GAAP assets, with over 60% attributable to North America mortgages. Assets declined by nearly 30% year-over-year and underlying credit quality improved as well, driving a significant reduction in credit costs as seen here on the right.

The consumer net credit loss ratio rate in Citi Holdings has declined by overall 140 basis points year-over-year, and for the last three quarters, we have utilized loan loss reserves to cover nearly all of the net credit losses in our North America mortgage portfolio. At the end of the third quarter, we had $5.7 billion of loan loss reserves allocated to the North America mortgage portfolio in Citi Holdings or 40 months of NCL coverage.

Given the recent improvements in credit, the one remaining driver of significant losses in Citi Holdings has been legal and related costs. These costs combined with rep and warranty reserve builds have totaled over $3 billion over the last 12 months or the equivalent of nearly $0.70 of earnings per share.

Earlier this year, we took significant steps to resolve the legacy rep and warranty issues by reaching agreements with both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, legal and related costs have remained elevated driven largely by legacy private label securitization issues. Today, it is difficult for us to determine the ultimate timing and cost of resolving these securitization issues. However, we are hopeful we will have better clarity by sometime in 2014. Putting these legacy issues behind us is critical to driving Citi Holdings closer to breakeven, and therefore, to achieving our 2015 targets for total Citigroup.

While reducing the earnings drag is a clearly priority, we’re also focused on shrinking the size of Citi Holdings and therefore the capital required to support it. Today, there are few sizable operating assets left, totaling just $21 billion as of the end of the third quarter. The biggest is OneMain with around $10 billion of assets. OneMain has the largest consumer finance distribution network in the U.S., offering personal loans through over 1,100 branches. OneMain is profitable, generating U.S. taxable income with a proven business model and a strong market position. That said, the business does not fit with Citigroup’s target customer segment. We continue to evaluate all options for exiting OneMain and a key step will be exploring third party funding, which could include entering the securitization market in 2014.

Second is PrimeRE, a profitable U.S. closed-end reinsurance portfolio. And finally, our legacy retail operations in Spain and Greece. The remainder of Citi Holdings is generally in run-off or targeted for opportunistic sales. The largest portfolio is North America mortgages at $76 billion with an estimated weighted average life of six years. Over the last 12 months, we sold roughly $7 billion of these mortgages, and the average run-off has been approximately $3 billion per quarter.

Our legacy institutional assets are now at $15 billion, down nearly 50% from the prior year. These assets include $6 billion of mark-to-market and AFS securities, as well as $4 billion of held-to-maturity securities with an estimated weighted average life of about 10 years. We will continue to reduce the assets in Citi Holdings as quickly as possible in an economically rational manner, taking advantage of assets sales as those opportunities arise.

Now, I want to address our performance versus the three 2015 targets we laid out in March of this year. First, we set a target for Citicorp operating efficiency in the mid 50% range with the upper end based on the flat revenue environment from 2012. As I covered earlier, over the last 12 months Citicorp’s efficiency ratio was 59%, down 400 basis points from 2011. We still have much work to do to maintain this momentum, particularly in a challenging revenue environment, but we also see multiple opportunities for improvement.

In Global Consumer Banking, we continue to reallocate resources to better performing markets and we are working to drive our 36 markets to a common set of products, processes and platforms. And in our institutional business, we see the biggest opportunity from streamlining our operations across products, while remaining disciplined on headcount and compensation. Second, for Citigroup, we are targeting a return on tangible common equity of 10% or higher. This compares to 8.3% generated over the last 12 months. Beyond the improvement in Citicorp efficiency, a significant driver will be getting Citi Holdings closer to breakeven.

Citi Holdings losses were a drag of roughly 1.6% on our Citigroup ROTCE over the last 12 months. Of course, returns are also dependent on our level of book equity and our target clearly requires increasing our capital returns in the coming years, subject to regulatory approval. And finally, we are targeting a Citigroup ROA of 90 to 110 basis points, up from the 70 basis points achieved over the last 12 months. We expect our assets to remain broadly stable at or below the current $1.9 trillion level. So at the low end, this implies net income in 2015, of roughly $17 billion. Citicorp itself earned nearly $16 billion over the last 12 months, so once again getting Holdings closer to breakeven is a key driver.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve taken significant actions to rationalize and simplify our operations without compromising our long-term growth and return potential. In Global Consumer Banking, we have exited markets, announced the sale of Credicard in Brazil, repositioned certain franchises and taken actions to resize our U.S. mortgage business. We also continued to rollout our common global technology platform. In our institutional business, we have reduced headcount, streamlined our management structure and better aligned Transaction Services with our markets business as well as reprioritized our banking coverage, and across Citi, we’ve also taken actions to rationalize our real estate portfolio in data centers, move resources to lower cost locations and renegotiate vendor contracts.

These actions have driven our core operating expenses, excluding legal and repositioning costs, down by 4% year-over-year as of the third quarter. Assuming no change in the revenue environment, we would expect core operating expenses to trend somewhat lower in the fourth quarter, as additional benefits from our repositioning actions would be partially offset by some seasonal marketing expenses. These core operating expenses should continue to decline through 2014 with the caveat of course, that if we see a stronger revenue environment, we would also have higher compensation and transaction related expenses.

Turning finally to our capital position. While the operating environment has been challenging, we have continued to build capital with an estimated Basel III Tier 1 Common ratio of 10.5% and estimated Supplementary Leverage Ratio of 5.1% as of the end of the third quarter. The vast majority of the regulatory capital build this year has been driven by a combination of retained earnings and DTA utilization.

We have utilized approximately $1.8 billion of deferred tax assets year-to-date. However, our DTA remains sizable with roughly $40 billion that is included in our tangible common equity, but excluded from regulatory capital under Basel III. The additional book capital required to support this DTA has a significant impact on our returns.

On the lower left of Slide 22, we show our average tangible common equity over the last 12 months split between the amount of TCE, which supports our deferred tax assets and that which is employed in our businesses. Excluding the DTA, Citigroup earned 11% return on tangible common over the last year in line with our returns on regulatory capital. If we assume Tier 1 capital – Tier 1 common capital asset levels of 10% of Basel III risk-weighted assets across each business, the return on Basel III capital for Citigroup would have been an estimated 11%, including a 17% return for Citicorp. Our Global Consumer franchise, earned a return on regulatory capital of over 25%, while the institutional franchise earned over 17%.

So in conclusion, we have made clear progress toward our 2015 target so far this year and we continue to see opportunities over the next two years to improve the efficiency in Citicorp, move past our legacy issues in Citi Holdings and begin a more meaningful return of capital to shareholders. The pace at which we advance in 2014 will depend on a number of factors, including the operating environment as well as the timing and the cost to resolve our legacy legal issues.

We remain focused on maintaining our expense discipline and credit quality and winding down the assets in Citi Holdings in an economically rational manner. We are going into 2014 with a strong client franchise and a core business in Citicorp, which generates attractive returns. Our goal is for Citigroup to better reflect the strength of this underlying franchise by moving past legacy issues and returning excess capital over time.

And with that, I’m happy to take any questions, although I ran six minutes over Richard’s target. So I apologize.

Earnings Call Part 2: