FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank’s warning last week of a third year of losses has prompted some investors to question whether John Cryan should be given more time to turn around the bank, after less than three years as chief executive.
After the initial shock of Friday’s announcement by Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) that it would post a third consecutive annual loss in 2017, some shareholders are now airing their impatience.
Several top 20 shareholders contacted by Reuters say that Deutsche Bank must swiftly close the gap with its U.S. rivals by winning back market share and improving the performance of its investment bank, especially in the United States.
And support for Cryan, who became CEO in 2015 and was charged with turning the struggling bank around, is waning among some investors who are concerned by the slow progress made.
The 57-year-old British former UBS (UBSG.S) investment banker had raised their hopes last July when he said that he expected Deutsche Bank to finally return to profit in 2017.
“The pressure on John Cryan will now increase,” one major shareholder told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some investors are publicly calling for Deutsche Bank to consider replacing Cryan as CEO following the forecast.
“It should be considered,” Michael Huenseler, head of credit portfolio management at Assenagon, which owns Deutsche Bank shares, said. “Cryan earns a lot of credit, but going forward, I feel it is time for a discussion of a change of strategy at the top and that comes with a different management.”
During his tenure, Cryan has stabilized the bank, raised capital, designed an overhaul, cut costs, confronted daunting legal challenges, and managed the demands of greater regulation.
However, the bank’s shares are now trading 37 percent lower than the day he took over. The stock has lost 7.5 percent since Friday’s profit warning, with the shares hitting their lowest level in nearly two months.
Cryan, who consultancy HKP said earned 3.84 million euros ($4.6 million) in 2016, gave his most recent view on his tenure in a December interview with Boersen-Zeitung newspaper.
Asked whether he wanted to extend his contract when it comes up for renewal in 2020, Cryan said:
“I’m doing well. I am healthy, and I hope for the bank useful. But my contract runs another 2.5 years. The question about how it goes after that hasn’t been posed.”
Deutsche Bank declined to comment on Cryan’s future or the investor calls for a change in strategy.
Germany’s biggest bank announced an overhaul in March last year that included integrating its Postbank retail bank with its in-house consumer bank in an effort to cut costs, as well as the partial sale of its asset management business.
However, Cryan and his deputies have cautioned that the turnaround would be a long, hard slot.
Despite the latest setback, others among Deutsche Bank’s largest investors are giving Cryan time, but prescribing fixes.
“Cryan’s strategy as such isn’t in doubt - not yet,” said a person familiar with the thinking of the royal family of Qatar, which owns just under 10 percent of Deutsche Bank’s shares.
“The problem appears limited to the U.S. investment bank,” said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Deutsche Bank must take care of this quickly and, for example, find a strong personality who can take over the trading business there to revive it.”
Other investors said they were closely watching the earnings of U.S. competitors to see whether the bank was closing the gap.
Deutsche Bank said last week that revenue at its cash-generating bond-trading division was expected to drop 22 percent in the fourth quarter from a year ago.
JPMorgan (JPM.N), the first major Wall Street firm due to report earnings, is due to do so on Friday, with analysts predicting a 15 percent slide in trading revenue at competitors.
“We are keen to see how other investment banks have performed, but we suspect (weak performance) is something more Deutsche Bank specific,” Assenagon’s Huenseler said.
Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, which likens Deutsche Bank’ difficulty to turn around quickly to a supertanker, rates it at the bottom of its peers, with a negative outlook.
A November report by S&P said the bank was focused on an “extended and far-reaching restructuring program; by contrast, many competitors are more focused on business as usual.”
S&P said it would trim the bank’s rating by a notch if it “remains a relative underperformer in its core businesses.”
Despite the bad news for investors, the prospects for some Deutsche Bank staff are looking better after Cryan promised to pay them bonuses in 2017, after virtually abolishing them for 2016.
($1 = 0.8389 euros)
Reporting by Tom Sims and Andreas Framke; Additional reporting by Hans Seidenstuecker; Editing by Alexander Smith