Citibank Budgeting

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1. Analysis of Budget Process at Citibank
Direction and control of Citibank’s international branches are conducted via two formal management processes. Each year, top management sets sovereign risk limits for its independent branches based on proposals by country managers. Country managers may choose to operate with self-imposed limits below this upper guideline. Following, there is the budget setting process, where headquarters only provides administrative guidelines but not specific targets, with operating managers being responsible for budgets for the following year. Indonesia often set their targets above these long-term goals. Performance is measured and compared against the budget each month, and a new forecast, which will be reviewed by the division manager, is drawn up each quarter for the remainder of the year.

This structure of bottom-up budgeting is appropriate for a decentralized firm like Citibank. This is evident from the freedom Mr Mistri has over Indonesia’s operations and the different business segments and divisions, as shown in Exhibit 2 & 3. Such a participative process is likely to increase management commitment to achieve the targets since country managers are responsible for influencing their own targets. More importantly, country managers know the local business environment and culture better than group managers, therefore their targets are likely to be more accurate and realistic.

Furthermore, bottom-up budgeting is a form of action control while the frequent reviews of the budgets serves as preaction review. Both facilitate information sharing within the organisation, with long-term strategic goals of the firm being communicated downwards and local business potentials and risks conveyed upwards via the budgets and forecasts. They also encourage managers to think further ahead about what they want to achieve in the near future.

However, Citibank’s budgeting process appears to have an imbalanced focus with most of the emphasis placed only on financial measures. Although these measures can be easily obtained and are inexpensive because they are by-products of the accounting system, it does not fully represent all aspects of the organization’s strategies and goals. Instead, the budget could be restructured to include other non-financial aspects such as customer satisfaction and employee morale to obtain a balance, which will be vital towards the long term success of Citibank.

None of Citibank’s budget items extend beyond the next year; instead there is an emphasis on a fixed short horizon. This can result in managers developing a myopic focus instead of measuring the fulfilment of Citibank’s long-term goals or the local government’s societal expectations. Myopia is aggravated by the monthly performance reviews which reveals the focus on short term goals. Citibank should look at its budget with a longer horizon.

Moreover, the budgeting process in Citibank appears to be tedious and too time-consuming. The requirement for operating managers to conduct discussions and forecast all the line items shown on the submission form seems to take up significant time and effort. Such a process could be costly for the firm in terms of opportunity costs related to unnecessary time and resources spent. The benefits of such a tedious budgeting process must be high enough to justify the related costs.

Also, there seems to be no connection and a mismatch between the two management processes. It is only reasonable that these two processes should go hand in hand as higher returns may only be possible with a higher risk appetite. However, increase in profit goals is not matched by an increase in risk tolerance (sovereign risk limit). Moreover, sovereign risk limits is set yearly but not adjusted when budgets are revised each quarter. Citibank should consider allowing country/division managers to adjust risk limits to match any revisions in budgets during the year.

Use of the Budget for...
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