Citigroup just poached the mastermind behind JPMorgan Chase's Sapphire Reserve to run its credit-card division

Citigroup just poached the mastermind behind JPMorgan Chase's Sapphire Reserve to run its credit-card division
Pam Codispoti
  • Citigroup has hired the mastermind behind the Chase Sapphire Reserve to run its credit-card division.
  • Pam Habner, née Codispoti, will join the bank July 1 to run branded cards, according to a company memo.
  • At JPMorgan Chase, Habner helped create and launch the Sapphire Reserve, which became an instant sensation, shaking up the credit-card industry and spawning imitators.
  • At Citi, she will run a business that's critical to growing Citi's US retail bank, which has for years lagged behind competitors.
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Citigroup has poached the mastermind behind JPMorgan Chase's blockbuster Sapphire Reserve credit card as the new head of its US branded cards division.


The firm on Tuesday announced the hiring of Pam Habner, née Codispoti, among a slew of organizational changes across the Global Consumer Bank detailed in internal company memos.

She'll take the reins of a business that's critical to Citi's US retail banking growth strategy.

"After conducting a thorough search for a new leader, I'm delighted to announce that we have that leader in Pam Habner (née Codispoti)," Anand Selva, head of US consumer banking, wrote in a memo. "She is joining our team in July with a proven track record as an inspiring and forward-thinking leader, guiding her teams to accomplishments across the financial services industry."

Habner most recently ran consumer branch banking and wealth management at Chase, but she's best known for helping create the industry-altering Sapphire Reserve while running Chase's branded cards division.


The elite rewards card unleashed in 2016 became an instant sensation - initial demand was so overwhelming that Chase infamously ran out of the metal-core cards - thanks in part to its perks, including generous travel credits and bonus points geared toward travel and dining. Initially, it came with an eye-popping 100,000-point signup bonus, which after several months was chopped in half, as well as a hefty $450 annual fee.

The card began as an experiment by Habner and team to crack the code on millennials, who were previously thought to be uninterested in credit cards. After traveling across the country to interview young consumers, she realized they just wanted a card toward their interests, rather than those of their parents'.

Providing travel and dining rewards was a hit, spawning copycat efforts from competitors - then innovative perks like Priority Pass lounge access and a rebate for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry are now offered by many cards - as well as an arms race by card issuers to lure millennial spenders with rewards.

The enthusiastic customer response also led to soaring costs to fund the rewards. The bank trimmed some of the benefits in the years since the launch, and in January announced a $100 increase to the annual fee.

At Citigroup, Habner will assume leadership over an operation at the center of the bank's ambitions to grow its US consumer bank, which for years has lagged behind competitors.


With only a slim physical branch presence, the firm's vast credit-card business is the linchpin of its growth strategy. Last year it began using targeted offers to convince its millions of card customers to expand their banking relationship with Citi, a strategy they expanded after initial success.

"Branded Cards is a critical growth engine for the US Consumer Bank, and the team has been delivering
impressive results," Selva said in the memo, noting that revenues grew 10% percent in 2019 while sales volume grew 7%.