Anshu Jain The Quintessential International Banker

Deutsche Bank’s co-chief executive, Anshu Jain, doesn't yet feel at home in Germany but he thrives in the United States where he lived for 10 years.
The cosmopolitan Anshu Jain.

Suddenly he appears among the guests, dressed in a dark suit, perfectly groomed, attractive and the only person in the room without a nametag. "Is that Jain?" someone asks incredulously. The co-CEO of Deutsche Bank, after having spent the day at an investors' meeting, is making a surprise appearance at the New York office's summer party.

Anshu Jain looks visibly comfortable on the rooftop terrace, with its view of midtown Manhattan, joking with his managers, exuding high spirits and responding glibly to questions.

Mr. Jain, and Indian-born British citizen, knows the financial worlds of Wall Street and the City of London like the back of his hand. He launched his career in the world of trading rooms, and in New York even competitors treat him with obvious respect. The banker still seems to feel somewhat uncomfortable in Germany, however, even though it's been two-and-a-half years since he and Jürgen Fitschen were named co-chief executives of Germany's largest bank.

But that isn't the only reason Mr. Jain likes to visit the United States. He makes the trip at least four times a year, partly because his children are attending Princeton University. He also has many old friends in New York, where he worked for 10 years until 1995.

On this evening, on the rooftop terrace of the Deutsche Bank New York headquarters, no one asks him how much German he has learned. And he also doesn't have to put up with people constantly referring to him as "Indian," just because he was born in that country.

Appearances like this are part of the unwritten division of labor with his co-chief executive. Mr. Jain spends most of his time with investors and analysts, while Mr. Fitschen represents the bank as its "foreign minister" to the world of Berlin politics and to the German public, partly because he also remains president of the private Association of German Banks.

"Fitschen maintains a strong presence, but Jain tends not to," say officials in Berlin. "Fitschen is our main contact," says a member of the ruling coalition government. Mr. Jain, on the other hand, doesn't meet regularly with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, a member of the ruling center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Their last meeting was in June.

Fitschen maintains a strong presence, but Jain tends not to. Government Officials in Berlin

There is apparently a certain distance between Mr. Jain and German lawmakers. This is not the result of any personal animosities, but rather the suspicion with which many politicians in Berlin view the entire industry since the fiasco of the financial crisis.

Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly has a solid relationship with Deutsche Bank's two co-CEOs, but both sides take pains to keep a certain professional distance, at least publicly. But at the working level, in writing draft legislation and working on regulatory projects, Deutsche Bank's lobbyists remain influential.

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Mr. Jain also makes the occasional appearance in Berlin. In the summer, for example, he gave a talk about education at the private European School of Management and Technology. He also attracted attention at an event in mid-February, when he gave the opening remarks at a presentation about former chancellor Gerhard Schröder's new book.

An appearance with the former leader of the Social Democratic Party, which is in coalition government with the CDU, didn't exactly generate applause among conservatives. The event took place in the middle of the campaign for the European Parliament elections, and leading Social Democrat candidate Martin Schulz was also present.

But the appearance has not been held against him. In fact, a veteran fiscal policy expert sees it as evidence of Mr. Jain's relatively distant relationship with powerful politicians. In the past, a Deutsche Bank chief executive would have met with the chancellor, whereas today he has to make do with a former chancellor.

Gone are the days when the heads of Deutsche Bank were regular visitors to the hallowed halls of federal politics – like Alfred Herrhausen, the Deutsche Bank chief executive who was murdered 25 years ago and was a close adviser to former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, or Josef Ackermann, who helped to orchestrate the Greek bailout during the financial crisis. "That sort of thing is simply impossible with the current configuration, and it isn’t just because of Jain," says a source in Frankfurt financial circles.

On the other hand, Mr. Jain plays a key role in global high finance. At industry meetings, like the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mr. Jain shares the stage with the heads of banking giants like JP Morgan and Bank of America. But he plays an unusual role at these meetings, where he is somewhat more reserved than the Americans.

In the past, a Deutsche Bank chief executive would have met with the chancellor, whereas today he has to make do with a former chancellor.

When he talks about issues such as ethics and cultural change, he comes across as a touch more serious, as well as more self-critical than his competitors. Mr. Jain has a unique image in the world of international banking, where he is not seen as a tough, ambitious manager who is purely interested in quick profits.

He is proud of his Indian roots. At another event in Manhattan, he talked about his beginnings in New York, comparing his experiences as an immigrant with those many Jews had in the U.S. financial sector. But the crucial point he makes is that in New York, it ultimately doesn't matter where you come from.

International bankers see themselves as an elite for whom national borders are more or less irrelevant. They do business worldwide, and they feel at home around the globe. Mr. Jain is not particularly exotic in this environment. In fact, he is more of a prototype of the international manager: a British citizen, born in India, heading Germany's largest bank.

 

Frank Wiebe is Handelsblatt’s New York correspondent, Jan Hildebrand is the deputy head of Handelsblatt’s Berlin bureau, Michael Maisch is deputy head of the paper’s finance desk in Frankurt. To contact the authors: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]