Deutsche Bank to review CEO future amid clamor

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Deutsche Bank
The headquarters of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany -- AFP

DEUTSCHE BANK AG plans to clarify Chief Executive Officer John Cryan’s future Sunday as Chairman Paul Achleitner faces pressure from some key shareholders to change leadership.

The lender’s supervisory board is convening in the evening to discuss Cryan’s position and a decision is planned for the same day, Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank said in a statement Saturday. It’s unclear what direction the board will ultimately take, with large shareholders expressing mixed views on the CEO and no apparent consensus on who could replace him, people familiar with the matter said.

At least two key investors have been pushing for Cryan’s ouster, while another has signaled it won’t stand in the way if Achleitner makes such a move, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. But another major owner is still backing the CEO, one person said. Deutsche Bank declined to comment on the talks.

At stake is the future direction of Germany’s biggest lender. At the heart of the internal struggle are questions about its US investment banking operations and how big a role they should have within the broader company in the future. Cryan has embarked on a review of the activities with a view to scaling them back, while Achleitner still sees the US as critical to the global investment banking model.

Achleitner, who has yet to publicly address the matter, broke off his vacation and has been meeting with stakeholders over the last few days to discuss his next move, the people said. Still, there is little indication what he actually intends to do, with options including keeping Cryan in his post, naming an internal candidate or bringing in an outsider.

Chief Financial Officer James von Moltke and Deputy CEOs Marcus Schenck and Christian Sewing have been the leading internal contenders, but it’s also possible that Achleitner could pick a surprise external candidate, one person said this week.

The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Schenck has been in talks about leaving the company as soon as next month because of discontent with the bank’s strategy. The newspaper cited a person familiar with the discussions. A Deutsche Bank spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Deutsche Bank and its backers have been casting a wide net to find a potential replacement for Cryan. Media reports have pointed to candidates including UniCredit SpA CEO Jean Pierre Mustier, 57, and Standard Chartered Plc CEO Bill Winters, 56.

In the meantime, a top investor in the lender and recruiters in recent weeks have separately reached out to Bank of America Corp.’s Christian Meissner and ex-JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive Matt Zames, people familiar with the matter said this week.

Neither have signaled interest in the role, the people said. Discussions Achleitner held with other candidates earlier this year also didn’t lead to an offer for the post, people familiar have said.

Uncertainty over a possible top management change has weighed on Deutsche Bank’s stock and laid bare tensions between Cryan, 57, and Achleitner. Cryan has been unable to restore revenue growth at the bank after reducing risk by settling legacy misconduct cases and raising fresh capital. Achleitner, 61, is facing heat from investors himself after going through three CEOs in six years. Cryan took over the CEO position in 2015, succeeding Anshu Jain.

Deutsche Bank closed down 2.6% at €11.35 in Frankfurt on Friday, losing 28% year-to-date and valuing the company at €23.5 billion ($28.9 billion). — Bloomberg