Deutsche Bank purges its leadership | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 07.06.2015
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Business

Deutsche Bank purges its leadership

The two chief executives of Germany's largest lender, Deutsche Bank, have said they will step down. Shareholders' confidence in the duo has been steadily slipping following a string of costly scandals.

In the end, it seemed to come down to a question of how Anshu Jain and Jürgen Fitschen could bow out with their dignity intact.

Several weeks after a tumultuous shareholders meeting at which some of the bank's most powerful investors rescinded their support for the two co-chiefs, Jain and Fitschen's days at the helm of the German banking giant are coming to an end.

Without naming an official reason for the switch, Deutsche Bank said on Sunday that Jain, 52, would leave at the end of June and maintain an advisory role. Fitschen, who is 67, will remain for one year and familiarize Jain's successor, John Cryan, with the new job. After that, Fitschen will retire.

Unhappy shareholders

It has been only two weeks since Jain was given more power to reorganize the bank. But he and co-CEO Fitschen have struggled to create a new corporate culture and usher in an era in which regulatory penalties, litigation costs and settlements don't weigh on profits, but their success has been limited.

"What they've done until now hasn't gone down well with shareholders," Hans-Werner Sinn, the president of a leading German economic research organization, said in an interview with DW on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Bavaria.

"Things will hopefully get better. The resignations should facilitate that," Sinn said.

Deutsche Bank is currently fighting legal battles on around 6,000 fronts. Last month, it was fined a record $2.5 billion (2.2 billion euros) for its role in the manipulation of the interbank lending rate known as Libor.

Also in May, the bank began an internal investigation into its investment division in Russia, where traders are suspected of having laundered $6 billion for clients. Investigators are scrutinizing stocks that were bought in rubles through Deutsche Bank as well as trades that went through London for similar amounts in US dollars.

Legal problems

Those and other allegations of improper derivatives sales and tax evasion - and the massive fines and slew of litigation that followed - have tarnished Deutsche's reputation and overshadowed Jain's successes at the helm of the bank's investment arm. Jain has gone from being the bank's poster child, whose army of investors once delivered up to 85 percent of the group's profits, to a pariah in the eyes of some shareholders.

Fitschen isn't without his own legal problems. He is currently traveling to Munich once a week to defend himself against allegations of perjury stemming from testimony regarding the dissolution of the Kirch media empire.

"The current bosses were tied too closely to the problems for them to represent a change of corporate culture," Gerhard Schick, a Green party politician in Germany, told the Reuters news agency.

Irreplaceable managers?

Support for the duo has been ebbing on multiple sides. Before the bank's annual shareholders meeting several weeks ago, the chairman of Deutsche's supervisory board, Paul Achleitner, seemed to distance himself from the fates of Jain and Fitschen.

Asked in an interview with the German business glossy Manager Magazin whether Jain and Fitschen were irreplaceable managers, Achleitner replied: "Is anyone?"

But the co-CEOs may have been dealt their heaviest blow when only 60 percent of attendees at the shareholders meeting expressed support for them in a vote of confidence. Such votes usually go down with near unanimous support.

But Achleitner was not the only one who has been dissatisfied with the bank's performance under the stewardship of Jain and Fitschen. Union members openly called for Jain's resignation after he announced that the lender would be downsizing not only its investment division but also its retail banking. Some 200 of the bank's 700 branches in Germany are slated for closure by 2017 in a bid to increase Deutsche's profitability, which has been lagging behind that of its competitors.

Cryan, the incoming CEO, has a reputation for preferring to stay out of the limelight. A former chief financial officer at the Swiss banking giant UBS, he will replace Jain when he leaves on June 30. Once Fitschen retires in one year's time, Cryan will become the bank's sole chief executive.

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