Deutsche Bank has long been accused of neglecting its home market for the global financial hubs of London and New York. Those days, however, are nearing their end.
Deutsche’s risky gamble on the U.S. housing market in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis finally caught up with the bank last year, when the U.S. Justice Department wrung a $7.2 billion settlement out of the already-beleaguered financial institution.
And Deutsche’s position in London looks increasingly precarious in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Staid Frankfurt has started to look more attractive than the glitz of New York and London.
What’s beautiful is that morning has already begun. After a very difficult 2016, we can now see that the seeds we planted are starting to bloom. John Cryan, CEO, Deutsche Bank
In his first address of the year, Chief Executive John Cryan made it clear that Deutsche will place a greater emphasis on Germany in its strategy for the future.
“Our biggest strength is very clearly our business here on the home market, with our customers in Germany,” Mr. Cryan told Deutsche staff in a speech the British banker held in German. “It’s no secret that Germany will play an even more meaningful role in the future.”
Frankfurt is “a natural winner from Brexit,” Mr. Cryan said, and the city “will become even more important” for Deutsche Bank now that London risks losing its connection to Europe. Deutsche has already set up a new digital bank on Frankfurt’s outskirts, Mr. Cryan said.
His address was both a homecoming and a motivational speech. Deutsche Bank has seen its stock price double to nearly €20 since the dark days of September, when the Justice Department’s threat to impose a €14-billion fine had raised concerns that the bank would need a bailout.
But Deutsche and its shareholders can breath a sigh of relief now that the bank has settled for half that price with the U.S. authorities.
“With this settlement we have cleared up one of our biggest risk factors, not just for our shareholders, the regulators and the government, but also for our customers,” Mr. Cryan said.
And now, with things looking up, the bank can concentrate on its future, not the past.
“What’s beautiful is that morning has already begun,” Mr. Cryan said. “After a very difficult 2016, we can now see that the seeds we planted are starting to bloom.”