Citigroup's new CEO is a banker. Imagine that.

  @FortuneMagazine May 8, 2013: 12:53 PM ET
CIT20 michael corbat citigroup

Corbat, photographed in his office, is an incrementalist. "I'm not someone who throws myself out in front of things," he says.


In December, Citigroup's new CEO, Michael Corbat, appeared at a meeting of company alumni in Manhattan. It was their first interaction with Corbat as chief, and between the unceremonious ouster of his predecessor, Vikram Pandit, and the bank's disastrous half-decade, the mood was glum. Corbat stepped to the mike and displayed the blue cufflinks he was wearing, imprinted with an old Citi logo. They'd been sent to him by the wife of a recently deceased employee of 46 years who'd been so proud to work for Citi that he'd had them made. The widow sent Corbat the cufflinks because she hoped he'd be able to revive the type of pride her husband once felt. Corbat looked out at his audience. That's what I care most deeply about, he said.

"I remember hearing kind of a gasp," says one of the attendees, Hans Morris, a former CFO of Citi's institutional and capital markets businesses. "He just won over the room."

Slowly and quietly, Michael Corbat is beginning to win over more than a room of alumni. Seven months into his tenure, Corbat, 53, is emerging as a fitting leader for a company trying to restore its tarnished reputation. He isn't flashy or nakedly ambitious. He's thoughtful rather than spontaneous. And he's an incrementalist, not a revolutionary, as we'll see from his strategy for Citi. "I'm not somebody who throws myself out in front of things," he says with a wry smile in a rare interview.

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