Is Vikram Pandit a Robot?

I’ll leave to others commentary on any substantive points which may or may not have been made in Vikram Pandit’s WSJ op-ed on Friday; I’m more interested in his use of language. Here’s his first and last paragraphs:

If there is any consolation in the latest credit crisis it is the vigorous global debate now unfolding on regulatory reform. Regulators and market participants see an opportunity to reassess, and to get organized around guiding principles that can help financial institutions and financial markets handle the mounting complexities of global trends in business, markets and the economy.

In order to realize all the possibilities in the global trends reshaping our world and our financial systems, we welcome a more robust regulatory architecture that embraces standards broad and clear enough to apply to all participants, but is flexible enough to be adaptable to unforeseeable changes in a dynamic market.

Yes, that final paragraph is one 51-word sentence. And more generally this stuff is just impossible to read. Not all clear thinkers are clear writers, but a strong leader of a global institution must be able to communicate his ideas clearly and effectively. What we can see in this op-ed is a major hole in Pandit’s skillset.

Those two paragraphs alone are full of cliché and pablum: even management gurus tend to shy away from talking about something as meaningless as "the mounting complexities of global trends in business". If I were a Citigroup employee and I read this op-ed, all my fears about my bank being taken over by robots and consultants would have been confirmed at a stroke. Pandit simply doesn’t come across as human in this op-ed: instead he’s some kind of jargon-generation device, talking about "systemic risk umbrellas" and "alternative accounting approaches".

The job of CEO is by far the most outward-facing executive role in any company, and Pandit doesn’t seem at all comfortable dealing with the public in general and with his shareholders in particular. In return, his shareholders aren’t feeling very comfortable with him: Citigroup shares closed on Friday at $17.25. That’s the amount they fell between October 31 and January 22. At a too-big-to-rescue bank, leadership is paramount. Since Pandit clearly can’t deliver on that front, it might be time to start thinking about a replacement.

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