Trouble-plagued Deutsche Bank on Sunday ousted its British chief executive officer John Cryan, replacing him with one of his deputies in a bid to get Germany’s biggest lender back on track after years in crisis.
Following weeks of speculation, the bank announced that German Christian Sewing, 47, would succeed Cryan who has been at the helm since 2015 with Sewing as deputy CEO and head of private banking.
“The supervisory board of Deutsche Bank has named Christian Sewing to the position of CEO, effective immediately, to succeed John Cryan who will leave the bank at the end of the month,” the Frankfurt-based bank said in a statement.
Deutsche Bank earlier said it was calling the surprise supervisory board meeting “to discuss the chairmanship and to take a decision the same day.”
Although Cryan’s contract was due to run until 2020, media reports in recent days suggested a rift over strategy with supervisory board chairman Paul Achleitner, who called Sunday’s meeting.
The choice of Sewing over investment banking chief Marcus Schenck, who had been discussed as a possible successor to Cryan, points to a strategic shift toward retail banking in its home market of Germany.
Given sole command of the lender in 2016 after the departure of co-CEO Juergen Fitschen, Cryan’s task was to restructure Deutsche and clean up the toxic legacy of its pre-financial crisis bid to compete with global investment banking giants.
He had neutralized the worst legal threats, in part by paying billions in fines and compensation, strengthened Deutsche’s capital foundations with an 8 billion euro (US$9.83 billion) share issue last year and floated asset management division DWS on the stock market last month.
However, “the financial results have so far not been what all of us would want them to be,” Cryan, 57, acknowledged in a letter to employees last month while fighting to keep his job, referring to an unexpected 751 million euro loss reported for last year.
While the bank said that the loss was a one-off caused by US President Donald Trump’s corporate tax reform, investors have shunned Deutsche since the start of the year, with its stock dropping about 30 percent in value since January 1.
Business paper Handelsblatt said last month that Deutsche Bank remains “what it was when Cryan took the helm: a chronic patient.”
Cryan was seen as a troubleshooter after his successful steering of Swiss bank UBS through the financial crisis as finance director between 2008 and 2011.
However, he met his match with the German lender.
“It was clear from the beginning that Cryan’s time in office would be limited and that his job would be ‘clearing up past mistakes.’ He’s not a charismatic leader personality or a visionary,” Frankfurt School of Finance and Management professor Sascha Steffen told Handelsblatt.
“He had to battle serious problems that his predecessors swept under the rug for years,” Independent Research analyst Markus Riesselmann said.
“He’s largely cleared those up and now it looks like Deutsche can’t turn things around regarding margins,” Riesselmann said. “I doubt a new CEO could successfully make that transition. It seems rather to be a fundamental ‘Deutsche Bank problem.’”
In the bank’s statement, Achleitner praised Sewing as a “strong and disciplined leader” who has had a more than 25-year career at the organization.
“The Supervisory Board is convinced that he and his team will be able to successfully lead Deutsche Bank into a new era. We trust in the great ability of this bank and its many talents,” he said.
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