It’s a trend spreading across Germany this year. Shareholders are speaking up, forcing cuts to executive bonuses and demanding strategic changes in direction. Germany’s ailing flagship bank hasn’t been immune to the shareholder pressure over the years – just ask its former chief executive Anshu Jain who resigned after a rather turbulent annual meeting two years ago – but there has been one key difference: For years, the disparity of Deutsche’s investor base – more than 500,000 people own shares – has meant that no single shareholder has held too much sway over the bank.
That is about to change. Two major shareholders have been given extra clout. Chinese conglomerate HNA, which became an owner earlier this year, and the royal family of Qatar have each won seats on Deutsche Bank’s non-executive supervisory board on Thursday. It marks the first time shareholders have been given a seat at the table since German insurer Allianz held a stake of about 5 percent back in the 1990s.
For a bank in the middle of one of the biggest reboots in its history, this is a big deal. Supervisory boards in Germany have the power to hire and fire executives and approve their longer-term strategies. Deutsche Bank in a statement Thursday insisted it is still business as usual: “It’s completely normal for investors with a stake of about 10 percent to request a seat on the supervisory board.” But some of the bank’s other major shareholders don’t find it normal at all.