What separates one bank from its competitors? While banks in the United States continue to merge and oligopolize, not much. The four largest American banks are so dominant that the fourth-largest one by assets, Citigroup Inc. (C), has double the assets of the fifth-largest.

Citi introduced the ATM to the United States back in the 1970s, and created more innovations along the way, including certificates of deposit, and compound interest on savings accounts. The bank has broken ground in more dubious ways, too. It was one of the first beneficiaries of the infamous Troubled Asset Relief Program that rewarded mismanaged banks with billions of dollars (in Citi’s case, 25) in taxpayer money. In the year and a half before the then-Secretary of the Treasury graciously turned the public spigot counterclockwise into Citi’s awaiting mouth, the bank’s stock price had fallen from the mid-$500s to $35. After multiple splits and reverse splits, it’s remained in that neighborhood ever since, which is still high enough to give the bank a market capitalization around $175.5 billion. (For related reading, see: Top 4 Bank Stocks for 2018.)

A Tale of Two Citis

Fond of using its corporate name as a prefix, Citi separates its activities into two distinct units: Citicorp and Citi Holdings. The former is something of a homonymous pun. It holds the Citi core operations, separated into three divisions — global consumer banking, institutional clients group, and corporate.

The first of those is the department that operates under the “Citibank” name. It handles the ordinary stuff you’d expect from a consumer bank — holding depositor funds, lending money to small businesses, offering low-level financial advice, etc. Citibank is also the home of Citi’s card operations, which we’ve learned time and again is where banks enjoy some of their most effortless profits. There are 95.4 million Citi active cardholder accounts, making the bank the world’s largest issuer. (For more, see: How Wells Fargo Became the Biggest Bank in America.)

Investment Banking

The institutional clients group is a similarly expository name. That’s where Citi performs its traditional investment banking such as lending big sums to corporations and securities lending. When Sprint Corp. (S) merged with Japanese company SoftBank, Citi served as the lead financial advisor. Institutional clients business contributed $9.7 million in profit for Q2 of 2018. (For related reading, see: Bank of America vs. Morgan Stanley.)

Finally, Citi’s corporate department is analogous to corporate departments in other, non-bank companies. It’s an account for day-to-day operations, payroll, the bank’s own real estate holdings, and other items necessary to conduct business. It’s not a moneymaker, but it’s vital. (For more, see: Is Goldman Sachs Still a Winner?)

That leaves Citi Holdings, which the bank describes bluntly as “businesses and portfolios of assets that Citigroup has determined are not central”.

Global Reach

Citi operates in over 160 countries, separating operations into four geographic regions: North America; Latin America; Asia Pacific; and Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Looking primarily at consumer banking by region, North America is by far Citi’s most profitable. Canada and the U.S. accounted for more than $8.5 million in earnings in Q2 of 2018. Half of that comes from credit cards, the perpetual profit center for most banks. (For more, see: How Visa Counts On Your Free-Spending Ways.)

Europe, the Middle East and Africa remain a small market for Citi. In Western Europe, Citi barely registers. Its largest markets in this part of the world are Poland, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates; France, Germany and the United Kingdom are non-factors. Consumer banking revenues in Europe, the Middle East and Africa were barely $3 million billion for Q2 of 2018. Total net income was a mere $4.5 million for this quarter, which was driven by higher revenues and a lower effective tax rate, which worked to offset the higher cost of credit. (For related reading, see: How Bank of America Holds 1/8 of All U.S. Deposits.)

Balance Sheet Built on Balances

In Latin America, average loan balances are even higher. Consumer banking there earned Citi $1.4 billion this quarter, while retail banking and transaction revenues grew 12%, with continued growth across loans and deposits.

That leaves Asia, the region in which Citi’s securities banking is largest relative to its corresponding consumer banking. Consumer banking profits on the world’s largest and most populous continent totaled $1.9 billion in Q2 of 2018. Additionally, retail banking revenues increased by 4%, which were driven by growth in wealth management. (For related reading, see: The Best ETFs 2018: A Comprehensive Guide.)

The Bottom Line

As a business, Citi has everything going for it. In this context, “everything” means dominant shares of the banking market and influence via lobbyists. So far the bank spent about $1.2 million on lobbying and contributions. When a corporation gets repeated federal guarantees that it can’t go defunct, investors should take that as the signal that it is. (For related reading, see: JPMorgan Chase: Too Big (and Profitable) to Fail.)

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