Changing Sides

Former French Central Banker and Regulator Takes on Tough Task at Deutsche Bank

Banque de France Source DPA
Mrs. Matheson started working for the Banque de France in 1986.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Sylvie Matherat is moving from France’s central bank to Deutsche Bank, where she will help deal with banking regulators and become the only woman in top management.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Sylvie Matherat began her career at Société Générale and also worked at BNP Paribas.
    • She worked for more than 20 years at the French central bank, most recently in charge of financial regulation.
    • Her switch from the central bank to the private sector was vetted by an ethics panel and approved.
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    Audio

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Sylvie Matherat has reserved a bit of work-life balance for Saturday, swimming a brisk kilometer to keep fit. And being in good condition can do no harm as she invades the man’s world at the summit of Deutsche Bank.

Beginning Friday, she will be responsible for maintaining regulatory requirements in the group executive committee, an expansion of the executive board.

“I bring a French continental European sensibility to the table. That is good as a counterbalance to the Anglo-Saxon mentality.”

Sylvie Matherat

The 52-year old will work with regulatory authorities from New York to Frankfurt and Tokyo, an area where Deutsche Bank has no shortage of work. Issues she’ll face include equity requirements, wage structures and investigations into capital market manipulation.

The men’s club at Deutsche Bank doesn’t intimidate her, but she sees another challenge.

“I bring a French continental European sensibility to the table,” she said in an interview with Handelsblatt. “That is good as a counterbalance to the Anglo-Saxon mentality” already represented at Germany’s largest bank.

Ms. Matherat said it’s important that Deutsche Bank remains true to the idea of a universal bank that makes business loans “to strengthen growth.”

Her move is not without controversy because she comes from the French central bank, the Banque de France – in other words, changing camps from overseer to overseen.

Sylvie Matherat will work in Deutsche Bank's regulatory area. Source: DPA.
Mrs. Matherat will work in Deutsche Bank’s regulatory area. Source: DPA.

Deutsche Bank has rankled the banking world before with its hires. In 2005, for instance, Caio Koch-Weser left the German Finance Ministry, where he was responsible for setting bank policies, to work as a consultant for Deutsche Bank.  Helmut Bauer also caused a stir when the financial regulator left BaFin, the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, to join the Frankfurt-based bank.

The issues then are the same now: How much insider knowledge of other banks is Sylvie Matherat taking with her?  And shouldn’t she wait a while before starting?

As it is, she has only taken four weeks vacation between her old job in Paris and her new job in Frankfurt. She said French authorities had discussed whether a cooling-off period was needed in moving from a government agency or central bank to a private company.

“My case was checked by an ethics committee,” Ms. Matherat said. “Since I have had no privileged information about individual banks at all since 2007, the government panel gave a green light for my move.”

This is not the first time she has moved from public service to the private sector. The mother of three adult children began her career at Société Générale and did not start working at Banque de France until 1986. But she was soon drawn back to private business, this time with the major French bank BNP Paribas. There she specialized in structured products such as securitizations, which took a lot of blame following the subprime mortgage crisis.

In 1993, she returned to Banque de France as part of its “Commission Bancaire” – a precursor to today’s banking regulators. There she was directly involved with supervising French banks, but in 2007 was given responsibility for shaping the regulations that every financial institution has to follow. She was one of the French experts in the international financial organization BIZ, which worked out new guidelines for regulatory capital requirements.

“The banks need completely different incentive systems so that they no longer think in the short-term,” Ms. Matherat said at the time.

Now she can turn her wishes into reality at Deutsche Bank.

Thomas Hanke is a Paris-based correspondent and Peter Köhler is an editor at Handelsblatt. They can be reached at hanke@handelsblatt.com and koehler@handelsblatt.com

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