Has Citigroup lost rather too many people?

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Cast your mind back to November 2008. On November 17th, Vikram Pandit convened a Citigroup town hall meeting at which he announced his intention of eradicating 50,000 jobs and reducing headcount to around 300,000.

Citigroup's share price promptly fell nearly 60% to a (then) low of $3.77.

Fast forward seven months and Pandit's plan appears to have gone a little too well: when the bank announced its second quarter results last week, it revealed that it now has 279,000 people, instead of the planned 300,000.

Although headcount is now lower, compensation costs have risen. Last quarter they were $6.36bn, up from $6.24bn in the first quarter, and higher than the $6.3bn paid by Citi in the fourth quarter of 2008 - when headcount was still 323,000.

There could be a perfectly innocent explanations for this - the additional expense may come from redundancy payments, and Citi may have achieved unforseen job cuts in unanticipated places.

However, the suspicion is also that Citigroup has lost more people than it would have liked, particularly from its investment bank and that it's having to pay generous retention bonuses to secure the remainder. As we noted in June, it seems to have leaked more than its fair share of people to Barclays Capital.

David Trone of Fox-Pitt, Kelton appears to have had something similar in mind when he attempted to query Pandit over retention bonuses during the Q2 conference call. Pandit's response was pure corp-speak:

I work 100% so does all my management on making sure I retain all my channels of people. That is a 100% job we do all the time.... What I do know very clearly is that we've got a very strong team and we're motivated as people. We're keeping them. We have some turnover as everybody else does and I suspect if you look at anything we've done I don't have any facts, you're not going to find us doing anything different than any other firm on the street.

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