April 6, 2018 / 10:21 AM / a year ago

Breakingviews - Wanted: candidates for Europe’s toughest bank job

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Paul Achleitner, chairman of Deutsche Bank, has initiated a search to replace CEO John Cryan, though the process is still at an early stage. Breakingviews has obtained a copy of the imaginary pitch headhunters have sent to prospective candidates.

The logo of Deutsche Bank is seen at its headquarters ahead of the bank's annual general meeting in Frankfurt, Germany May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski


We are inviting applications for this soon-to-be vacant post. This is an exciting and increasingly rare opportunity to lead a European institution clinging to its ambitions to be a global investment bank.

The role is open to candidates with a minimum of two decades’ experience in finance, including at least five years in the C-Suite. They must have the desire to go toe-to-toe with Deutsche Bank’s largest rivals on Wall Street, as well as the ability to ignore their predecessors’ woeful track records.

The board has contacted several leading bank executives to gauge their interest, but has received surprisingly few applications. As a result, it has agreed to consider candidates from the insurance industry. However, applicants who maintain they already know everything about investment banking, as Tidjane Thiam did upon joining Credit Suisse, will be rejected – at least at first.

The CEO will be responsible for executing the bank’s strategy, whatever that is, working closely with the supervisory board, particularly Chairman Paul Achleitner. In the interest of maintaining a good relationship, candidates are discouraged from reminding Achleitner that he was responsible for appointing the last three (co-)CEOs.

The social and political context in which the bank operates demands that the CEO is scrupulously honest at all times. But excessive candour can be an obstacle when motivating employees. An ability to persuade investment bank traders that they are members of a winning team – despite working for a division that earned a 1.4 percent return on tangible equity last year – is particularly valuable.

Similar mental agility is required to publicly defend the importance of lending to German consumers and small companies, while recognizing that our home market has Europe’s least profitable banks. The CEO should be prepared to dismiss the feasibility of a merger with Commerzbank until the moment the deal is announced.

Candidates must have a proven ability to cut costs; experience of automating back-office functions is particularly valuable. However, telling Deutsche Bank’s 97,500 employees that their work can be done more efficiently by robots is not good for morale.

The successful candidate would ideally be fluent in German as well as English. A working knowledge of Mandarin is also helpful for meetings with large but sketchy Chinese shareholders.

Compensation includes a base salary as well as a generous bonus, which the CEO will be expected to publicly waive at the first sign of any controversy. The board also reserves the right to air any strategic differences or personality clashes with the CEO in public.

The successful candidate will be notified by a leak to the financial press and will take charge in time for Deutsche Bank’s Annual General Meeting on May 24. Details of the remaining applicants will be kept on file, and reconsidered when the position next becomes vacant in a few years’ time.

DISCLAIMER: Deutsche Bank will not be held liable for any damage to those candidates currently in possession of a reputation, positive net wealth, or a full head of hair.


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