Wall Street

Deutsche Bank’s U.S. Mea Culpa

Cryan diagonal imago
John Cryan's trying the honest approach.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    John Cryan is trying to change the reputation of Deutsche Bank by ushering in a new plain-talking style. The proof will be in the implementation.

  • Facts


    • Deutsche Bank co-CEO John Cryan, appointed in July, says the bank must tackle the “root causes” of misconduct that has plagued the bank since the 2008 crisis.
    • Mr. Cryan vowed that the bank would continue operating in the United States, even as it shrinks many of its other operations around the globe.
    • Japanese authorities on Tuesday called for fining Deutsche Bank’s Japanese subsidiary after an analyst allegedly passed on a company’s earnings before they were made public.
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It’s not often that bankers admit their bank’s mistakes. Deutsche Bank co-chief executive John Cryan is doing his best to re-write the script.

Germany’s largest bank, and Europe’s largest investment bank, has long had a difficult reputation in the United States, even before the 2008 financial crisis struck. Often labeled by critics as a “trader’s shop,” the Economist magazine in 2004 called the bank a giant hedge fund that made risky financial bets with borrowed money.

Even after the financial crisis, as the bank promised a change in culture, it was co-led by Anshu Jain, the bank’s co-chief executive from 2012 until June of this year, who was often criticized in Germany for his background as a trader and investment banker.

Mr. Cryan, who took over as co-chief executive in July from Mr. Jain, has made few public appearances since taking charge – his first in-person appearance only came when the bank announced an overhauled strategy in October. But the appearances he has made are offering a new openness that is uncharacteristic of most bankers.

Speaking Tuesday at an investor meeting organized by rival investment bank Goldman Sachs in the United States, Mr. Cryan recounted a series of things that had gone wrong at the bank in the past, confirming many of the critics’ claims about its culture.

Mr. Cryan criticized the bank’s operating mode in the past for a “headlong pursuit of revenues,” being led too much by the front office staff and priding itself on complex products that couldn’t be easily controlled.

“There’s been a lot of misconduct…we have to go and look at the root causes of some of this,” he said, adding that he wanted to make employees more responsible and accountable for the risks and costs associated with doing business: “We’re trying to make everyone feel as though they own the business,” he said.

All this is in part designed to improve the bank’s reputation in the United States, where Mr. Cryan confirmed the bank is committed to maintaining its operations even as it pulls back from other regions around the globe.

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