Revealed: Citigroup to shake up panel with reduced roster

Citigroup will announce details of its eagerly-awaited revamped panel early next month, with the banking giant preparing to unveil a new structure to the roster and show some existing advisers the door.


The bank plans to scrap the current two-tier system devised in May 2010 in favour of a reduced unified panel arrangement. At the end of the last review in May 2010 Citi split the panel into two distinct groups: the ‘golden nine’ and the ‘silver sixteen’ (31 May 2010).

This time round, it will work with a group of around 15 firms in total, some appointed to work on global matters with others more focused on regional or local issues. The bank insisted that it has only ever worked closely with about 10 firms.

“There are no new firms being appointed, but a couple of existing ones haven’t made the cut,” said Citi’s managing director and head of the Citi Transaction Services legal department in EMEA, Nigel Kemp. “That doesn’t mean we’ll never work with them, there are some individuals that we’ll continue to have a relationship with.”

Instead, some of the bank’s existing panel firms will be on an “upward arrow”, meaning they will take a higher volume of work from the bank going forward.

“There are firms we work with more markedly and are therefore paid more fees,” said Kemp. “That usually revolves around a key four – Linklaters, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Freshfields.”

The bank’s other current advisors include Ashurst, DAC Beachcroft, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright, Dentons, Simmons & Simmons, and Bird & Bird.

Citi also instructs a number of US firms who are not subject to the EMEA panel review, including Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Shearman & Sterling, and Skadden.

While sources suggested that the cuts were a result of tighter cost control at the bank, Kemp insisted there was nothing out of the ordinary about Citi’s legal spend.

“Cost is a factor, but it always is in this day and age,” he said. “There won’t be any surprises. We won’t suddenly be inviting X and Co. of Bognor Regis to join the panel because they’re cheap.”

The bank’s cost cutting efforts have focused instead on its internal spend. In 2006 it launched its Citi Legal Academy in Belfast, which aims to train and recruit graduates from Ulster and Queen’s universities in the city. Next month, 23 new graduates of the Academy are set to join the bank’s legal team.

“It’s a central part of our cost save,” said Kemp. “Pretty much all of our negotiation and transactional services work is done in Belfast, which means that our senior lawyers in London can focus on senior lawyer work.”

As part of the build out of its Belfast legal offering, Citi is adding number of new areas including a regulatory group to mirror that set up in London earlier in 2013.