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In response to Sandy Weill, Citi has "an unimaginable alternative" to develop with Jane Fraser as its subsequent CEO

Former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill told CNBC Thursday that he was optimistic about the bank's future after Jane Fraser was selected as the next executive, calling her a "natural leader" who can drive future growth .

“I'm thrilled that you chose a woman, but I'm more thrilled that you chose a woman who has done a phenomenal job at Citi for the past 16 years in everything she does ever had to do, "said Weill remains a shareholder, said on" Closing Bell ".

Citigroup, the third largest US bank by assets, announced Thursday that Michael Corbat plans to retire in February after 37 years with the company, spending the last eight years as chief executive officer. Fraser, who is currently president and head of the global consumer banking unit, will be the first woman to run a major US bank.

Fraser, 53, joined Citi in 2004 and has held a variety of roles including director of Latin American operations. With banks under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, Weill said Fraser's background positioned them well to navigate for years to come.

"Jane, after joining Citi, led our strategy for about three years and she also spent time at [McKinsey & Company]. I think she knows a lot about strategy, but she also knows a lot about how to execute strategy Company practical and she has empathy for people, "said Weill. "I think Citi has an incredible chance in the future."

Weill, who left Citigroup as CEO in 2003 and retired as Chairman in 2006, was a notable figure in the company's history. He helped turn it into a sprawling financial institution in the late 1990s and changed banking rules when he merged his Travelers Group and what was then Citicorp.

Weill defended Corbat against criticism of bank stock performance during his tenure, saying he "inherited a real mess from his predecessor". Citi shares have risen a little more than 40% since acquiring Corbat in October 2012, while JPMorgan Chase, for example, is up about 140% over that period. Bank of America's stocks are up well over 150% during that time.

Citi's shares are down 36% this year alone as the financial sector undergoes the stresses of the economic fallout from the pandemic. Weill said this year-to-date accomplishment was "a great opportunity for Fraser to do really incredible things."

"I am happy to be a Citi shareholder with Jane at the helm and I was happy with Mike. I think Citi is in a very good position," he said.

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