Nacho Gutierrez-Orrantia

Ignacio Gutiérrez-Orrantia, EMEA head of banking, capital markets and advisory at Citi, speaks to Marie Kemplay about the bank’s bold plans and the strategy to achieve them.

Ignacio Gutiérrez-Orrantia, Citi’s investment banking chief for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), has his eye on only one position in the league tables. “Our ambition is to be the top investment bank in the region,” he says. Citi’s share of investment banking revenue in 2021 stood at 6.6% for the first nine months of the year, according to Dealogic, placing it in third position.

The bank has a clear “step-change plan” for how to achieve this, he says, with a strong emphasis on creating a culture of “positive banking”, as well as a focus on maximising what Citi can offer via its platform. With a corporate bank that is present in 55 EMEA countries and provides services to an additional 53, it is already starting from a position of strength, he notes. “When you think about EMEA, our footprint is unparalleled,” he adds.

Career history: Ignacio Gutiérrez-Orrantia  

  • 2021 Head of EMEA banking, capital markets and advisory, Citi
  • 2018 Chairman of continental Europe, banking, capital markets and advisory, Citi
  • 2014 Head of strategic coverage, EMEA and chairman of Spain and Portugal, Citi
  • 2012 Head of southern Europe banking, Citi
  • 2009 Head of Iberian corporate and investment bank, Citi
  • 2004 Managing director, head of Iberian coverage, Citi

“We are reviewing and refining our relationship and coverage model, creating the corporate bank of the future and considering how to maximise the search for alpha, when it comes to transactions involving our investment banking and markets businesses, as well as the private bank.”


The future agenda for the corporate bank, he believes, will be centred around the big trends of our time, such as technological changes and decarbonisation, and as such “we need to create the corporate banker of the future, with the skills required to serve this emerging client base”. Capturing this market, Mr Gutiérrez-Orrantia believes, will be crucial, and it is something that must begin immediately, as the big disruptive companies of the future are already here.

“I think there has been an acceleration in the pace of business plans, and the growth rate of many of these new businesses is very high. And that means that the size, the reach and the profile of the business changes rapidly,” he adds. “I think it’s very important that we, as a bank, are able to identify those companies and accompany them throughout their growth.”

Capturing high-growth business

Attracting and retaining the business of high-growth companies is a commonly articulated aim of various investment banks, but Mr Gutiérrez-Orrantia believes the breadth and versatility of Citi’s offering stands it in good stead to support firms with their developing needs. Whether that is transaction banking across a range of geographies, initial seed or later growth capital — including from private markets — and, ultimately, also being able to support such companies with initial public offerings. But to reach them at that stage, Mr Gutiérrez-Orrantia believes the bank needs to be “a partner to these businesses throughout their growth, and [that] requires a level of anticipation”.

However, of equal, if not greater, importance to Mr Gutiérrez-Orrantia is Citi’s culture. And, ultimately, it is this that he believes sets it apart and will enable it to gain an edge on the competition.

Team spirit

The bank’s strong performance in recent years has endowed Mr Gutiérrez-Orrantia’s division with a strong sense of momentum, he says. “If I look at the 10 largest transactions in Europe this year, we’ve been in five. If I look at the largest 13, we’ve been in eight,” he explains. “There is an esprit de corps — we have been fighting, we have been winning and we have been developing the franchise to perform. Morale and aspirations are high.”

But to his mind, underpinning this sense of common purpose is something more fundamental: a notion that Mr Gutiérrez-Orrantia describes as “positive banking”, that not only prioritises the needs of the client, but also ensures a positive working environment for staff too.

“We are in a very intense and demanding job — many of the transactions we work on are once-in-a-lifetime events for clients — and clients demand the most they can from us. So, of course, we do need our people to deliver to their full,” he says. “But at the same time, we want people to develop and to have a fulfilling and successful career. And I am a firm believer that it is only when people are happy and enjoy what they are doing that you can get the most from them.”

Keeping top talent

The highly prized skillsets developed by top-flight investment bankers have long made them a very mobile talent pool. And for Mr Gutiérrez-Orrantia, creating an environment that enables Citi to retain its top talent is far from a second-order consideration.

While some level of attrition is good in every business, he says, it is only a positive up to a point. “I think what is going to retain people in this business is the quality of the experience, and this is something we need to stay focused on — ensuring our people are challenged, that they can get out of their comfort zone and also that when they have success that this is recognised.” He cites the importance of providing a healthy work–life balance. Citi has been notable among big investment banks for openly embracing a hybrid model of working, and adopting measures such as ‘Zoom-free Fridays’ in a bid to prevent staff burnout during the pandemic.

Alignment of values

He also stresses the importance of having a healthy compliance culture and approach to risk management. This is a notable point as the US regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, fined the bank $400m in October 2020 due to “deficiencies in enterprise-wide risk management, compliance risk management, data governance and internal controls”, adding that it expects to see timely improvements in this area.

You can have a very successful banker when it comes to revenue, but if they are not achieving it in a manner that fits well with our principles, then this is probably not the right place for them

Mr Gutiérrez-Orrantia says that how staff conduct themselves is as important as the level of revenue they bring in: “You can have a very successful banker when it comes to revenue, but if they are not achieving it in a manner that fits well with our principles, then this is probably not the right place for them.”

Increasingly, ensuring Citi is an institution that aligns with its staff’s broader values is an important consideration, he says. “There needs to be an alignment between people’s values on social, green and sustainability issues, otherwise that pride of belonging will never be there.”

Here, he is confident the business is delivering, as there is a commitment “from the very top of the house” to support clients to reach key environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives, including achieving net-zero business models. He cites the bank’s formation of its dedicated sustainable financing and advisory team several years ago, ahead of many other banks, as a key sign of this commitment.

Entrenching ESG

But this is an area that continues to accelerate, and as such he believes Citi must also continue to stretch its level of ambition and its capabilities. “The level of awareness and focus on this area from our clients, and broader society, has grown exponentially in the past five years. We are now getting to the stage where this must move from being a standalone area of advisory and consulting to being present across our discussions with clients, our market analysis and our targets,” he says. “In short, ESG must be deeply entrenched in everything that we do.”

He accepts this means that all of Citi’s bankers must have a good level of knowledge in this area. “Our clients across sectors and geographies will expect us to be experts on this, and we want to be in a leading position to support them in their efforts.”

Ready for action

Broadly, Mr Gutiérrez-Orrantia believes 2022 is shaping up to be another busy year, notwithstanding market volatility around further Covid-19 developments, disruption around inflation or as central banks adjust their monetary policy. “Liquidity levels remain high, particularly by historical standards, and I do think will continue to support capital markets activities. There is also a search for consolidation, as many clients have excess liquidity from the earlier stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and they are looking to deploy that. So on the mergers and acquisitions side, for instance, that will continue to drive activity.”

In particular, the bank has positioned itself to provide optimised support to clients in three areas where significant activity and growth is expected in the coming years. “We have announced the formation of three ‘supergroups’ which will focus on energy transition, technology and healthcare,” he says.

These supergroups — natural resources and clean energy transition, technology, and global healthcare, consumer and wellness — have seen legacy teams merged to better serve clients in these areas. “What we’re trying to do with these new groups is adapt to the new reality out there and migrate to a structure that reflects the way clients themselves are transforming,” says Mr Gutiérrez-Orrantia.


All fields are mandatory

The Banker is a service from the Financial Times. The Financial Times Ltd takes your privacy seriously.

Choose how you want us to contact you.

Invites and Offers from The Banker

Receive exclusive personalised event invitations, carefully curated offers and promotions from The Banker

For more information about how we use your data, please refer to our privacy and cookie policies.

Terms and conditions

Top 1000 2023

Request a demonstration to The Banker Database

Join our community

The Banker on Twitter