3 of Citi's newest managing directors detail their career paths and how an embrace of tech helped their rise (2023)

  • Citi promoted 306 employees to managing director earlier this month.
  • Three new MDs spoke with Insider about how they achieved this career milestone.
  • The new execs also gave advice for young professionals just starting their Wall Street careers.

Managing director-promotion season has kicked off on Wall Street.

Outside the C-suite, MDs represent the highest level many employees achieve at a bank. The title comes with the opportunity to lead larger teams and a base salary well into the six figures.

Earlier this month, Citi tapped 306 employees for its newest class of managing directors. The first class of promotions under new CEO Jane Fraser was one the bank's biggest and most diverse — globally, 34.6% of new MDs are women, while in the US, 35.3% are Black, Hispanic/Latinx, or Asian.

At Citi, some young leaders made the cut by embracing digital transformation and focusing on new ways for technology to change the way they work.

Three of the new MDs — Arash Nazhad, Aerin Smith, and Ben Marmot — highlighted the role that tech has played in their careers.

All three also took nontraditional paths, with backgrounds in music management and politics and degrees from universities outside the Ivy League-concentrated pipeline big banks typically recruit from.

Nazhad, Smith, and Marmot spoke with Insider about achieving MD status. Here's a look at how they did it.

(Video) 7 SENIOR MANAGER / DIRECTOR Interview Questions and Answers!

Arash Nazhad, managing director on the clean energy transition investment banking team

3 of Citi's newest managing directors detail their career paths and how an embrace of tech helped their rise (1)


Arash Nazhad thanks his parents for helping him develop a strong work ethic, which has been crucial to his success at Citi in investment banking. His family immigrated from Iran to Canada with only $20, and his father worked as a taxi driver while earning his PhD.

But before dreams of success on Wall Street, Nazhad wanted to go into music. While studying communications, business administration, and management at Concordia University in Montreal, he founded an event management company that brought stars like Kanye West and Common to campus.

Nazhad pivoted soon after graduation when he read a Financial Times article about the rising price of oil and became obsessed with the relationship between access to new energy and social mobility.

"We're in the early days of what's going to be the greatest infrastructure buildout in our lives, as well as our parents' lives and maybe even our grandparents' lives," he said. "It's just the early days of a massive, ongoing transition."

After earning a postgraduate degree at the University of Texas focused on energy and finance, he spent six years at petroleum refining company Equinor before moving to Citi's global energy team as a senior associate in 2014.

As part of a push to advance clients' sustainability efforts, Citi established a clean energy-focused advisory group this year that Nazhad is a part of.

"It's exciting to wake up every day as part of a dedicated team and see how we can deliver the firm to companies interested in the clean-energy space, because Citi has a broad ambition to enable their progress and growth," he said.

(Video) Give yourself permission to be creative | Ethan Hawke

It's a space that keeps growing, Nazhad added. The target universe of companies to cover includes everything from incumbents making the transition to clean energy, to both public and private clean-energy companies.

"It's an absolutely massive universe of clients who are bringing game-changing solutions," he said.

Aerin Smith, managing director and head of market commentary for global markets

3 of Citi's newest managing directors detail their career paths and how an embrace of tech helped their rise (2)


Aerin Smith joined Citi in 2008 and was on the job for about two weeks in a strategy seat — the first part of a rotational program for young professionals — before the fall of Lehman Brothers, the defining moment of the financial crisis.

"You learn how things work when they're not working," she said, adding that the experience was the perfect way to jump-start her learning process at the firm, which she says is still ongoing.

"You have to really embrace that you're learning, not just performing," she said. "You'll be learning your entire career, and that's completely fine — it's actually how you know things are going right."

This mindset has helped Smith succeed in her decade with CitiFX Wire, the firm's news service to deliver strategy, analysis, research, and other content to clients. It's a role that has changed exponentially in the last decade, thanks to constantly evolving technology, she said.

"In 2010, you were delivering content via a website — now, a website is a powerful platform that allows content to create entire experiences and a network," she said. "The idea that there's no longer just one single mechanism to provide information to clients is exciting because it brings out the creativity in everyone on the team."

(Video) Navigate and Embrace Change | Simon Sinek

In August, Smith was promoted to be head of market commentary for Citi Global Markets. In her new role, she's driving the strategy for market commentary delivered to institutional clients via CitiFX and Citi Velocity, another one of the firm's digital offerings focused on trading and research.

What hasn't changed is Smith's focus on ever-expanding digital solutions for clients.

"The big picture here actually is the parallel between my personal life and career life, because the reality is that those two are feeding each other," she said. "I'm personally interested in how I interact each day through technology, and how cool is it to take that to your job and use it to help form ideas and execute them? My career has evolved, just as the world is evolving alongside it."

Ben Marmot, managing director and head of digital transformation

3 of Citi's newest managing directors detail their career paths and how an embrace of tech helped their rise (3)


Citi often likes to tout its global presence, and Ben Marmot knows that better than anybody.

Marmot, who has been at Citi since he graduated from the University of Leeds in 2000 with a master's degree in politics, has relocated to seven different offices in four countries throughout his career.

"At this point, I've experienced a lot of what Citi offers — we don't just do one type of banking or support just one type of career," he said. "It's like going to the buffet, and there are a lot of different things to choose from. You might find that perfect role straight away, but you can also move around a lot as long as you show the right amount of work ethic in different roles and parts of the bank."

Originally from Manchester, Marmot started as a management associate in a two-year rotational program and has spent most of his time on client-facing work in the public and consumer banks, in addition to a stint in operations.

(Video) Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director of McKinsey

In 2019, he was promoted to head of fintech transformation and program management. That same year he was also tapped to head up the firm's digital transformation.

While the move to work in fintech was initially prompted by mentors' advice to get experience in the consumer bank — one of the few business-line gaps on his resume — he started the role right as Citi was investing heavily in new technologies to compete with disruptors popping up in the space.

"Digital transformation is all about making sure we can responsibly and quickly launch the best products and make it easier for our customers to do whatever financial activities they want to do, whether that's sending 20 bucks to the friend to pay for dinner or trading shares while you sit on the subway," he said.

But that simplicity can also make it easier for bad actors to steal information, he said, so a big part of his role involves compliance and security experts in every stage of developing new products.

Another major area of focus? Bridging the gap for talent joining the firm from tech companies without much knowledge of the financial industry.

"Turns out, if you've been working at a fintech, it might not be held to the same governance commitments as a financial institution," he said, adding that amazing ideas start hitting brick walls and taking longer to make it to market because it takes time to get approval from the firm's various governance and control partners.

"It can be frustrating because speed to market is important, but doing all of the checks and balances to make sure that the bad guys can't break in and do anything to our customers is paramount," he said. "But when we launch a new product, customers feel very safe since they have gotten an institution with hundreds of years of experience behind them that's invested billions of dollars into digital platforms as well as compliance, lawyers, and cyber-security experts."


1. Citi: How I Got Here – Shannon Hales
2. How Citi's Internal Audit Team Drives Change by Building Strong Relationships
3. #IFGS2019 Panel Walking the Talk on Social Mobility
(Innovate Finance)
4. Embracing Diversity & Inclusion Within Tech & Digital
(Just IT)
5. Junior Bankers Need to Work 12 Hour Days, J.P. Morgan's Erdoes Says
(David Rubenstein)
6. The Rise and Fall of Citigroup
(Wall Street Millennial)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Last Updated: 03/05/2023

Views: 5974

Rating: 4 / 5 (41 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Birthday: 1996-01-14

Address: 8381 Boyce Course, Imeldachester, ND 74681

Phone: +3571286597580

Job: Product Banking Analyst

Hobby: Cosplaying, Inline skating, Amateur radio, Baton twirling, Mountaineering, Flying, Archery

Introduction: My name is Kimberely Baumbach CPA, I am a gorgeous, bright, charming, encouraging, zealous, lively, good person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.