Deutsche Bank

The Battle for the Future

Straus ande Neske Action Press
Postbank CEO Frank Strauss (r) and Deutsche Bank board director Rainer Neske.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • Deutsche Bank is at a crossroads and the direction it chooses could well determine whether it returns to profitability in the long term.
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  • Facts

    Facts

    • Deutsche Bank is due to publish its annual results on Thursday. It is likely to report a loss for the fourth quarter.
    • The bank is considering selling off its retail arm Postbank, which it acquired in 2010.
    • Chief executives Jürgen Fitschen and Anshu Jain are under increasing pressure to turn things around.
  • Audio

    Audio

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The number 24 has a special meaning for Postbank boss Frank Strauss. To this day, the two digits occupy a special place in the office of the board chairman of the storied Bonn-based retail bank, which since 2010 has been a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank.

The number stands for a risky and almost forgotten experiment with which Mr. Strauss had hoped to make his name as a younger banker.

“Deutsche Bank 24“ was launched in 1999. At that time, the Frankfurt-based bank, Germany’s largest, planned to concentrate on its major clients and investment banking operations, while spinning off its traditional, branch-based business based on private deposit accounts and loans to companies.

The objective had been to take “24” public, but just three years later the decision was reversed – clients of the spin-off felt they were being treated like second-class citizens – and the bank reincorporated its branch operations into the main company. Ever since, many bankers consider the failed spin-off idea as symbolic of the bank’s one-time arrogance.

Not Mr. Strauss. For the current Postbank chairman, the concept of a single unit, offering uncomplicated products to clients, using simple procedures, still seems like a good idea – even if perhaps it was a few years ahead of its time.

But now, its time may well have come again. Deutsche Bank, which is due to report full-year results on Thursday, is in the middle of a major rethink of its strategy, forced by an ongoing lack of success and gloomy prospects.

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