Vikram Pandit, it turns out, has something of an online fan club. When I described him this week as "a dull technocrat who has never achieved very much," I was immediately slapped down by commenters – most of whom spent much more energy attacking me than defending Pandit.
The best thing that anybody ever says about Pandit is that he's a "respected investment banker" – which basically means that he's a generally amiable chap. Pranay Gupte has a good profile of him which reveals him also to be ambitious – something he shares with, well, everybody else on Wall Street. And certainly he seems to be very good at rising up corporate ladders.
But it really is hard to point to much in the way of solid achievements on Pandit's resume – besides, of course, his coup in managing to sell his fair-to-middling hedge fund to Citigroup (NYSE:C) for $800 million.
I'm not sure that anybody really has the ability to run the sprawling mess known as Citigroup, so in that sense maybe Pandit is no worse a CEO than whoever constituted Plan B. But the only person showing any real enthusiasm for him seems to be Bob Rubin, who now gets to retreat back into his ivory tower, making vast amounts of money without taking on any real responsibility.
Looking at the team of Pandit and Bischoff, I see two career investment bankers neither of whom has a fraction of the vision (Sandy Weill's vision, to be precise) which created Citigroup in the first place. It's entirely possible that Citi was held together by sheer force of Sandy's forward momentum, if you'll exclude the mixed metaphor, and that when Citi stopped growing, it was inevitable that it would fall apart. Perhaps what the bank needs now is an experienced M&A dealmaker who can cut up the giant and sell it off at a profit – but as far as I know Pandit has no M&A experience. Maybe that's Bischoff's job.