CEO Departure

Commerzbank: Stable, Boring

Blessing3-DPA
Martin Blessing leaves Commerzbank more-or-less better off than when he joined.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Martin Blessing took charge of Commerzbank in 2008 and managed to right a tilting ship, but he needs to make sure his successor knows how to drive profits at the institution.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Commerzbank’s share price shot up 18 percent on Friday.
    • The bank achieved a billion-euro profit in 2015 for the first time in five years.
    • Commerzbank was the beneficiary of a government bailout six years ago. The government still holds a 15-percent stake.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Martin Blessing describes his time at the head of Commerzbank since May 2008 as a roller coaster ride – and with reason.

First the bank needed to be bailed out by the state, just months after he took office. Three years later, just when most of the state aid had been paid back, it suffered major losses through writedown of its Greek debt holdings. The bank barely survived a stress test by Europe’s regulators soon after that, and finally, in the last two years, it seemed to be back on the right path.

“You understand that I will leave with very mixed feelings,” Martin Blessing said Friday at his last annual press conference.

Mr. Blessing is set to step down as chief executive of Commerzbank after eight years in charge. The 52-year-old surprised many last October when he announced that he did not want his contract renewed. Instead, he plans to leave the bank in late September.

As mixed as Mr. Blessing’s emotions might be, so too are the results of his tenure.

“Blessing had a weak start, but is ending quite well,” said Klaus Nieding, a lawyer and vice president of the German Protection Association for Security Holdings, an association for private investors.

Things do seem to have improved significantly at Commerzbank. For the first time in five years, the bank achieved a billion-euro profit and for the first time since 2007 it’s paying out a dividend to shareholders. Commerzbank’s share price surged an impressive 18 percent Friday on the release of its annual results.

“It must be stated that right now, Commerzbank is better off than Deutsche Bank,” said Philipp Hässler, an analyst at Equinet Bank.

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