Since we recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of this event without any real fanfare (or even a cake), I’m going to share this tale…100% accurate & true, so help me God!…with everyone, but most especially, for all the veteran Citibankers out there!
However, I’m hoping everyone will enjoy it.
Or, at least, come away nodding knowingly…
Back in early 1994, a few months from when I transferred from NY to the USCC in San Antonio (and helped migrate Citi’s Retirement Plans Services business to the Alamo City), we had a special guest visitor…SVP Dick McCrossen.
Never in the history of mankind has anyone had a more apt first name!
This guy was one of the most powerful guys in all of Citi, but he was, by far, its biggest monster as well!
He once fired one of his own deputy VPs who openly disagreed with him…right in the middle of a meeting!
Told him to get up, clean out his office & get off the premises in 10 minutes or he would summon Security to forcibly remove him from the building! (I had a buddy who was in attendance st that meeting.)
Met with McCrossen once at Court Square when he wanted to discontinue the use of the “magic middle” in our Citibanking ATM cards. Citi used a proprietary process of imbedding the customer’s vital information, including the card #, PIN & CVV code, in this special material imbedded in the plastic. Our ATMs would use this “magic middle” to read the cards, not the magnetic stripe. Yes, the cards also had a mag stripe (for use at other transaction touch points & banks’ ATMs) & our ATMs could indeed read the mag stripe (like present on other banks’ cards), but Citi chose this specific methodology as it added an extra layer of security for our customers & the bank.
Crooks & counterfeiters couldn’t make fake Citi ATM cards to use at our ATMS.
This was all during the period before it became popular to use Bank A’s cards at Bank B’s ATMs. There were various interchange networks already in place, but we never really told our customers about them.
Then we joined the Cirrus network & it became commonplace…as well as the fee applied to cash withdrawals executed away from your own bank’s ATM’s.
See? A history lesson in the middle of a humorous story!
It’s never too late to learn something new…every single day.
But I digress.
Anyway, Monster Man (who had recently assumed responsibility for the entire U.S. Consumer Bank as well as U.S. Bankcards) held a meeting at Court Square LIC to discuss eliminating the magic middle going forward & only producing cards with the mag stripe to save ~$2 per manufactured card.
Everyone at the meeting nodded their heads in agreement…like a bunch of puppets…except this one punk ass from Brooklyn who was representing National Operations.
I argued that we had done no analytical research whatsoever to determine if this was, indeed, the right way to proceed.
Were we cutting off our nose to spite our face?
Would future fraud losses wipe out any potential production expense saves?
A hush fell over the crowd.
McCrossen merely paused, glared my way, then proceeded to move on without directly addressing my concerns.
I was about to interrupt him when I got a sharp jab to the ribs from a buddy sitting next to me.
So I did.
But I’ll never forget that experience. Ever.
Fast forward, to early 1994…
I get invited to a special focus group session with Dick McCrossen who’s now visiting his little “gem” down in San Antonio.
It’s me…and 9 other officers (ALL FEMALE) who were asked to participate.
I clearly remember Doris Mitchell & Maria Nious being part of the group, but I’m not sure about the other 7 attendees.
We meet with Mr. McCrossen in the conference room & he starts off by saying, “If you just came here to drink some lemonade, pls leave now! I want to hear your feedback & I want you to be completely open & honest with me!”
He actually puts his arms behind his head & placed his feet up on a chair!
I almost fainted.
Was he getting ready to sunbathe? I know how strong the sun is down here, but damn, we’re indoors!
“And I assure you that I will protect your anonymity. I will NOT tell the senior management team who exactly said what, but I will certainly provide your ideas & feedback to the group.”
Born at night, but not last night. But I decide, “What the hell? Go for it!”
He starts off by telling us how very disappointed he is with the results coming out of the USCC.
So much so that he is not even convinced to put up another building down here & expand the site.
I remain pretty quiet as I allow the other managers a chance to speak.
Many of them are trying desperately to pat themselves & their people on the back for various things they’ve done, e.g., consecutive days of perfect attendance for their team, so the picture isn’t as grim as he just painted it to be.
Then it kinda comes around to me.
“Well, Mr. McCrossen, to be perfectly honest, I think you guys designed & built this place incorrectly from the very beginning!”
“The way I see it, you guys in Bankcards thought you could simply come down here to San Antonio, plant a couple of seeds in the ground, water them & Poof!
You have a Retail Banking Operations site!”
You could hear a pin drop.
“I’m very familiar with how this place was built. There was no one from the marketplaces nor National Operations who was asked to come down here at the beginning.
“This lady over here – – I point right at Doris Mitchell who was responsible for putting together all the policies, processes & procedures – – knows more about how this place is supposed to run that all the line managers put together!
“And lemme tell ya, I’ve forgotten more stuff about Citibank & operating a service center than Doris has even ever heard of.
“You should have taken people like me & brought us down here over a year ago & put us in cages in the middle of the room. You could throw us some food every now & then, but basically, we’d be able to answer every possible question the people, including your managers, have!
“But you guys were so stubborn & thought you could simply build this place with Bankcards people! It doesn’t work that way!”
As I’m speaking, McCrossen’s face & neck are turning beet red! He is boiling!
But I keep talking…
“I’ve been interfacing with the USCC for well over a year every single day. I speak with Doris all the time. I’ve reviewed all the crappy investigations that the phone reps submit…so many are embarrassing!
“A customer writes check #123, but it hasn’t posted to her account yet. The rep submits a request to find out who she wrote it to?!? It hasn’t even hit her account yet! How the hell is anyone supposed to know that???”
And I go on & on. I provide other examples.
And then I close with “You certainly can be disappointed with the results as they’re, indeed, dismal, but you can’t point the finger at these people. You never gave them the infrastructure nor the help nor the expertise that they need. You have Bankcards trainers leading new hire classes…how crazy is that?!?”
I finish my spiel. Everyone’s just sitting there…silent.
The Monster closes the meeting soon after. He thanks us for our participation & tells us that he’s going to meet with the USCC Directors & give them some feedback.
Beet Face gets up & leaves. No one says anything to me (probably afraid of guilt by association).
I sleep well that night. None of that shit bothers me.
The next morning, I’m walking out of my Retirement Plans Svces Ops area on my way to the men’s room when I hear, “LORUSSO!!! YOU, LORUSSO, GET OVER HERE!!!”
It’s John McEachern (USCC President) & Dan Owczar, my Boss, screaming at me from down the hall.
“What the Hell did you tell McCrossen yesterday!?!”
I shrug my shoulders.
“Gentlemen, I have no idea what you’re talkin’ about.”
“Stop with the bullshit, Mike! What did you tell him?!?”
I flash them that innocent, puzzled look.
“He told us at the very beginning of the meeting to be totally honest & open with him and that he would protect our anonymity.
He specifically said that he would not tell you who said what, but merely provide overall ideas & feedback.”
Both of them are fuming. Dan’s looking at me like I just peed on the carpet.
“He kept us locked in the Board Room until 11:30 last night…doing nothing but yelling at us! We had to cancel our scheduled dinner with him!
“All he kept doing was screaming & pounding his fist on the conference table, yelling, “That fuckin’ guy with the beard! That fuckin’ guy with the beard!”
“Huh? I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about…”
I then spun around, entered the men’s room & took my piss. Yes, I washed my hands…I always do.
The truth, the whole truth & nuthin’ but the truth.