Deutsche Bank Gets its Man

Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank's new finance chief will relocate to its Frankfurt headquarters. Source: dpa

The job criteria for Deutsche Bank’s new finance chief were rather extensive. The successful applicant had to know as much about figures and strategic financial planning as about the bank’s core business, investment banking. He or she was expected to speak German, but be equally at home in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Fortunately, the bank actually found such a multi-talent at its US rival Citigroup: James von Moltke. He will succeed Marcus Schenck, who is to manage the institute’s new corporate and investment bank.

The 48-year-old German-Australian aristocrat has a famous name in Germany, where his grandfather, Helmuth James Count von Moltke, was a resistance fighter against Hitler’s Nazi regime. Mr. von Moltke, who will take up his new position in July, was the number two in the finance department of Citigroup, where he was appointed treasurer in 2015.

The former investment banker also brings the skills to the table that Deutsche Bank needs most of all: comprehensive experience of restructuring.

In 2009, Mr. von Moltke moved to Citigroup, which was in dire straits at the time, initially as head of the in-house department for mergers and acquisitions. He helped create a considerably leaner bank out of what had been an unwieldy financial supermarket. Under his management his team “successfully helped” the bank to sell “some of its greatest assets,” to quote from the internal memo of Citigroup finance boss John Gerspach at the time of Mr. von Moltke’s departure.

During his time at the US bank, the German-born executive gained a reputation as a collegial and capable banker who got on well with people. “James brought us through the crisis. We are losing a very good man here,” a senior Citi banker, who knows him well, told Handelsblatt.

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James von Moltke is part of a wider management shakeup at Deutsche Bank under CEO John Cryan. Source: Getty

But initially, Mr. von Moltke hesitated. Why should he leave his job at Citigroup – long since stabilized – to again help shape the huge reconstruction of a bank that had been unprofitable for the past two years? But intensive discussions with Chairman Paul Achleitner and Chief Executive John Cryan, both of whom he had met before, persuaded him to move.

For Mr. von Moltke, working in Frankfurt also means a return to his German roots. He is a citizen of the world, havign grown up in Canada, studied at Oxford University in Britain and pursued a career at big banks in London, New York and Hong Kong. But he always maintained his connection to Germany and speaks the language fluently, albeit with a slight accent. As a child he frequently visited Germany on family visits, was a high school exchange student in Bavaria and studied philosophy and German literature on a year abroad in Berlin.

Mr. von Moltke has shown in the course of his banking career that he can do more than just restructure. Just like Mr. Cryan, he spent years advising finance companies on mergers and acquisitions. Following his studies, he first joined Credit Suisse in London, after which he worked for JP Morgan in New York and Hong Kong for 10 years. He then moved on to Morgan Stanley in New York for four years in a similar function.

His time as treasurer at Citigroup has also taught him a great deal about US law and regulatory authorities – an important criterion for Deutsche Bank, which had a deeply dysfunctional relationship with the US authorities in the era before the current management team.

The fact that he will move to Germany with his Swedish wife and their three children as part of his new appointment is interpreted as a strong signal by the bank, which has been at pains to demonstrate more attachment to its German roots since the arrival of Briton Mr. Cryan.

The move is part of a bigger management shake-up at Deutsche Bank, with current finance chief Mr. Schenk soon able to fully devote himself to his new role of restructuring the investment banking unit. As part of its new strategy announced in March, Deutsche Bank wants to merge its capital markets business and the corporate client division under the joint direction of Mr. Schenk and Garth Ritchie, a South African who was appointed to the management board in January 2016.

Yasmin Osman is a financial editor with Handelsblatt’s banking team in Frankfurt. Daniel Schäfer is head of Handelsblatt’s finance pages and based in Frankfurt. To contact the authors: ,

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