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Former Citi Exec could Prompt AIG Mortgage Expansion

Robert Willumstad joins board of directors

February 2, 2006


Robert Willumstad helped build Citigroup's mortgage lending business, but can he do the same at insurance giant American International Group?

Willumstad, 60, who recently retired as president and COO at Citigroup after being passed over as CEO, has joined AIG's board of directors and could eventually be in line for the top spot at the company.

It is widely believed that Willumstad was brought on board to help expand AIG's presence in the world of consumer finance, including mortgage lending.

"Given his expertise in building that sort of franchise, it's a natural progression for AIG," Michael Paisan, an equity analyst at Stifel Nicholaus &Co. in New York, told MortgageDaily.com.

"AIG is very strong in a lot of commercial areas, particularly on insurance," Paisan said. "It would be normal strategy to beef up consumer financial services, with mortgage lending one part of that multitiered strategy."

Paisan said AIG has not "said exactly" why Willumstad was brought in and what he will do at the company. AIG is not commenting on specifics of the move.

Paisan expects one of his duties will be to "identify targets of acquisition" that would expand AIG's consumer finance and mortgage lending operations.

Martin Sullivan, AIG's president and CEO, hinted at Willumstad's role in announcing his appointment to the company's board of directors.

"Bob Willumstad is one of the most experienced and respected executives worldwide in financial services, with a special expertise in consumer financial services," Sullivan said in a statement. "His many years in senior positions at Citigroup and earlier at Chemical Bank give him a perspective that will be particularly valuable as AIG seeks to expand in markets around the world."

Willumstad was chairman and CEO of Citigroup's Global Consumer Group, where his responsibilities included consumer finance -- including mortgage lending -- and retail banking.

Prior to joining Citigroup in 1987 Willumstad was a top executive at Chemical Bank, where he also oversaw retail banking.

AIG is an insurance industry giant with revenue last year of $106.75 billion and profits of $11.46 billion, according to information is has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company's American General consumer finance unit does make mortgage loans, including subprime, home equity and first and second mortgage loans. But overall the company is not known for a strong presence as a mortgage lender.

Patrick Crowley is a feature journalist and blogger for MortgageDaily.com. He is also a reporter, blogger and columnist for The Cincinnati Enquirer.
e-mail Patrick at: [email protected]

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