Crisis Toll

Deutsche Bank, Yielding to Pressure, Replaces CEOs

Deutsche Bank
Yielding to pressure from shareholders, Deutsche Bank on Sunday said its co-chief executives, Jürgen Fitsche and Anshu Jain, both longtime bank veterans, would be stepping down amid a series of investigations and record fines.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Mr. Cryan, a British banker, is being tasked with leading Germany’s largest bank into a new era of consistent profitability, and resolving the legacy of its pre-financial crisis legal woes.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Anshu Jain, 52, and Jürgen Fitschen, 66, had been co-CEOs of Deutsche Bank since May 2012. Mr. Jain will depart at the end of June; Mr. Fitschen in May 2016.
    • Mr. Cryan, 54, spent much of his career at Swiss bank UBS, and since 2013 has been a member of Deutsche Bank’s supervisory board, in charge of auditing and risk management.
    • The supervisory board made the changes two weeks after almost 40 percent of shareholders expressed disapproval with Mr. Jain and Mr. Fitschen.
  • Audio

    Audio

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In the end, it seems the pressure was simply too much to bear.

Deutsche Bank on Sunday announced the departures of its co-chief executives, Anshu Jain and Jürgen Fitschen, responding to growing demands for change at the top of Germany’s largest bank after years of damaging lawsuits and a failure to consistently boost earnings.

The two co-chief executives, in charge since 2012 and under contract until 2017, will be replaced by John Cryan, Swiss bank UBS’ chief financial officer from 2008 to 2011, and a member since 2013 of Deutsche Bank’s own policy setting supervisory board.

Mr. Cryan, 54, last led the European operations for Singaporean investment fund Temasek. On Deutsche Bank’s supervisory panel, he was responsible for internal auditing and risk compliance.

Mr. Cryan will become sole chief executive of Germany’s largest bank next May, when Mr. Fitschen is to step down.

Mr. Jain will leave the bank at the end of this month, Deutsche Bank said in a statement.

The shake-up comes as Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank was struggling to free itself from a string of investigations, criminal convictions and record fines stemming from actions taken by some of its bankers in the run-up to the 2008 global financial crisis.

The decision announced Sunday by the bank’s supervisory board, which has the power to hire and fire top managers, came less than a month after nearly four in 10 Deutsche Bank shareholders rejected the co-CEOs at the bank’s annual meeting in a formal vote.

 

John Cryan, new Deutsche Bank CEO Source Reuters
Deutsche Bank on Sunday tapped John Cryan, a 54-year-old British banker who was a member of the German bank’s supervisory committee, as its new chief executive. Source: Reuters

 

In a statement, Paul Achleitner, Deutsche Bank’s supervisory board chairman, lauded the departing managers for recognizing that their continued leadership had become a liability for the institution, which has struggled to redefine its role in the post-crisis era.

“Their decision to step down early demonstrates impressively their attitude of putting the bank’s interests ahead of their own,” Mr. Achleitner, a former chief financial officer at German insurer Allianz and the former head of Goldman Sachs in Germany, said.

Mr. Cryan will have to hit the ground running. The bank a month ago disclosed plans for a significant restructuring, including selling a retail network, Postbank, closing 200 of its own-brand branches, reducing its investment banking operations and closing foreign offices in up to 10 countries.

In a statement, Mr. Cryan said the German bank would continue on its course to rationalize its operations, departing further from the “universal” model of a one-stop-shopping bank for big corporations and wealthy individuals that has been largely abandoned by the industry in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Deutsche Bank has been one of the laggards in revamping its business to recognize the new realities of the post-crisis banking world — where investment banking opportunities no longer abound as once before, making its more costly retail operations less sustainable.

“Our future will be defined by how well we deliver on strategy, impress clients and reduce complexity,” Mr. Cryan said in a statement. “I look forward to beginning this work on July 1.”

118 Deutsche Bank-WTB 2014

 

Mr. Cryan “knows the bank well, and we are convinced that he is the right person at the right time,” Mr. Achleitner said. “We wish John and all of our employees success in this important next phase for the bank.”

Mr. Jain and Mr. Fitschen struggled in three years at the helm to right a bank disoriented and underperforming after the 2008 financial crisis.

Six years after the crisis, Deutsche Bank continues to spend millions of euros each year defending against hundreds of lawsuits from former clients and to pay whopping fines, including a record $2.5 billion penalty assessed this year by U.S. and British regulators after some of its bankers conspired to manipulate global interest rates.

Mr. Jain, a dual Indian-U.K. citizen who had led the bank’s investment banking operations before becoming co-CEO, was faulted for not halting the criminal behavior that occurred on his watch. In the past, Mr. Jain said he had not been aware of the wrongdoing.

The record Libor penalty in April raised pressure on the bank to make a change at the top.

Mr. Jain, in a statement, said he looked back fondly on his two decades at the bank.

“I believe that with Strategy 2020 in place, which puts the bank’s future on a strong track, it is right for the bank and for me to have new leadership at this time,” Mr. Jain said. “I will be forever honored to have served here, and I am convinced that the future of the bank is bright and in very good hands.”

Mr. Fitschen, a northern German banker with a reputation for propriety, has appeared regularly since April in a Munich court room with four other former Deutsche Bank executives charged with misleading investigators looking into the 2002 bankruptcy of Kirch Media, a German company that owned Bundesliga football rights and pay-TV channel.

The public court proceedings featuring Mr. Fitschen and former Deutsche Bank chief executives Rolf Breuer and Josef Ackermann, in the dock to to speak, have challenged the bank’s contention that it is rehabilitating its corporate culture in the post-crisis world.

Sunday’s announcement came as a bit of a surprise.

The bank’s supervisory board decided to stand behind Mr. Jain and Mr. Fitschen after its annual shareholders’ meeting on May 21, when only 61 percent of shareholders voted for the two men, a rarity in Germany where most boards get more than 90 percent approval.

Sources at the time said Mr. Jain, 52, in particular had been pained by the low approval rating.

Christopher Cermak covers finance and economics for Handelsblatt Global Edition in Berlin. To contact the author: cermak@handelsblatt.com

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