The JPMorgan banker tasked with reviving Citi’s investment bank

At JPMorgan Chase, investment banking head Vis Raghavan regularly told recruits, “You’re either reading the news or making the news.”

The hard-nosed advice was a key tool Raghavan used to motivate employees, win deals and help transform JPMorgan into the leading global investment bank.

After more than 20 years at the bank and less than a month after being named JPMorgan’s sole global head of investment banking, London-based Raghavan announced this week he was leaving. The timing of the move was as newsworthy as his destination: Citigroup, which last year ranked fifth for investment banking fees, according to data from the London Stock Exchange Group. JPMorgan, for the 11th straight year, came first.

“There’s been a strong external and as well as internal in Citi reaction to someone of Vis’s capability and stature joining Citi in this role,” said David Livingstone, Citi’s chief client officer.

Raghavan’s move to Citi puts him at the heart of one of the biggest reorganisations of a major bank in years. As Citi’s new head of banking, it also lands him in charge of its most troubled unit. The business, which includes corporate, commercial and investment banking, lost more than $40mn last year: the only one of Citi’s five divisions not to turn a profit.

Joining Citi gives Raghavan, 57, a chance to see if he can recreate the success he had at JPMorgan, where his prospects for further promotion were more uncertain.

Raghavan’s new role puts him in charge of Citi’s corporate loan business as well as investment banking, and, unlike at JPMorgan, he will report directly to the chief executive. He also gets the title of executive vice-chair of the bank — the only one of the five business heads to do so — underlining his higher profile within Citi.

Christian Meissner, the former head Credit Suisse investment banker who is now at boutique advisory firm BDT & MSD Partners, said Raghavan was “clearly a formidable competitor, a super intense guy and that’s been true since his early days in banking”.

Recruiting Raghavan brings an end to a high-profile HR gambit by Citi’s chief executive Jane Fraser, who left the banking job vacant when she unveiled the company’s new five-division structure in September.

At an internal town hall meeting at the time, Fraser pointed out unprompted that all of the new unit heads were men. That fuelled speculation that Citi was seeking a prominent female banker to fill the role.

In the end, the job went to Raghavan, a man, about the same age as Fraser.

Born in India, Raghavan studied undergraduate physics at the University of Mumbai and took a postgraduate degree in electrical engineering and computer science at Aston University in Birmingham. His first job was as a systems engineer with General Signal in Birmingham, before he moved to Ernst & Young.

In banking, Raghavan gravitated towards numbers. He secured deals not by mining relationships but through a reputation for being able to structure complex deals. JPMorgan hired him in 2000 to build a business for the bank in convertible bonds.

There Raghavan dominated rivals. In 2003, he helped Germany raise $5bn by selling bonds in Deutsche Telekom that could eventually convert to stock. Raghavan’s role in the deal — the largest-ever convertible bond deal at the time — earned him the nickname “convertible bond king”. Within a decade, he was running all of JPMorgan’s investment banking operations in Europe.

“He’s very honest and very human,” said Nikos Stathopoulos, European chair of private equity firm BC Partners. “He will tell you no you can’t do that, and sometimes a quick no is far more valuable than a slow, conditional yes.”

In his early years as a manager, Raghavan gained a reputation for micromanaging and being an extremely demanding boss. “Vis is a very driven person. The question is when he’s pushing it too much, can it be counterproductive?” one former colleague said. Raghavan also kept a lid on pay, willing to let bankers leave for rivals rather than match outsized packages.

More recently, colleagues say, Raghavan has managed with a lighter touch. He was quick to embrace remote work at the start of the pandemic and has pushed for less demanding schedules for junior employees. Last summer, at an annual cricket event he hosts at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London where clients get to mix with pros, he paid tribute to Anshu Jain, the former head of Deutsche Bank and rival banker who died in 2022 — though he also used the occasion to recount how he scooped the event from Jain and Deutsche Bank, its previous sponsor.

Not all deals have gone over well. In 2021, Arsenal supporter Raghavan was one of the key bankers who thrust JPMorgan into the centre of the controversial European football Super League. The attempt to create a new club competition was scrapped following widespread public outcry — then UK prime minister Boris Johnson called it a cartel — and the episode provoked a rare public apology from JPMorgan.

“There’s an intensity [in Vis,] you see it right away,” said Sadek Wahba, the head of infrastructure fund I Squared Capital, who expects to do more business with Citi now that Raghavan is there. “In his ability to deliver, that’s very rare.”

Additional reporting by Arash Massoudi, Stephen Morris and Ivan Levingston

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