Citigroup: Too Big to Manage

| About: Citigroup Inc. (C)

As U.S. taxpayers spend massive amounts to save Citigroup (NYSE:C), we are reminded yet again why that’s such a hopeless, pointless thing to do.

This time, the evidence of what a basket case Citi is comes from, J.D. Power & Associates, which on May 19 released the results of its 2009 retail banking "customer satisfaction survey." You won’t be surprised to learn that Citi came in dead last, or near dead last, in every region of the country where it has a retail banking presence. Here’s the honor roll:

  • In the Mid-Atlantic region, Citi came in tied for last among 23 institutions.
  • In the Midwest, Citi tied for last among 21 institutions.
  • In New England, Citi tied for last among eight institutions.
  • In the Southeast, Citi tied for last among 22 institutions.
  • In the West, Citi tied for last among eight institutions.

It was a clean sweep of the country, of sorts. No other bank did so poorly in so many regions. The only area where Citigroup didn’t bring up the rear was in the Southwest, where Citi managed a rating of “about average.” I assume Citi’s regional manager there will be fired any day.

It takes a special sort of incompetence to be able to tick off customers from coast to coast. Yet for some reason, U.S. taxpayers—which is to say, you and me—are being forced to save a company that’s hated by both its customers and by its investors, and that has no perceptible competitive advantage. By now (and I’m being only slightly facetious when I say this) Citi’s sole purpose is to be a burden to the taxpayers.

In every financial crisis in memory, Citigroup has been the first to fall and has fallen the hardest. Multiple lavishly paid management teams later, the story’s the same—only more so. In this last cycle, not only has management failed to show any improvement, they’ve actually made things worse.

It is time to let the markets work, and put Citi out of its (and our) misery.