New CEO Deutsche Bank Reloads

John Cryan, the new CEO of Deutsche Bank, started his new job today on the hottest day of the year in Germany. It's an appropriate welcome for a British banker who faces a host of challenges, from restructuring to winning back shareholder trust.
John Cryan's will be one of the most watched first days at work. Sources: Keystone, AP, Bloomberg


Today is actually John Cryan's first official day at work as new co-chief executive of Deutsche Bank.

But in the three weeks since the non-executive supervisory board decided to appoint Mr. Cryan as successor to Anshu Jain at the top of Germany's largest bank, he has held a string of meetings with key managers at the institution.

They include Colin Fan, the co-head of Deutsche Bank's important investment banking division, and Werner Steinmüller, the head of the successful Global Transaction Banking division.

Since Mr. Cryan served as a member of Deutsche's supervisory board since 2013, the new co-CEO is already familiar with the bank's strategy, but he has had little contact with its top managers until his sudden appointment to the top post. He will also have the help of co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen, who will aid the transition by remaining at the helm with Mr. Cryan for the next year.

What's clear already is that Mr. Cryan, a Brit, is set on change and plans to run Deutsche Bank differently than his predecessors.

Those who spoke with him in the past few weeks describe Mr. Cryan as a "classic restructurer," someone who is determined to consistently reduce the bank's costs – and with as little fuss as possible.

"Implementing the planned austerity measures is at the very top of John Cryan's agenda," said a source at Deutsche Bank management.

This will include significantly shrinking the bank's balance sheet and reducing staff, though it remains unclear just how severe the cuts will be.

Mr. Cryan will not make any concrete decisions until the fall, bank officials said. That goes for other changes, too. The new Deutsche Bank co-CEO has not decided yet whether to shake up the assignment of responsibilities within the management board, for example.

It is also quite conceivable that Mr. Cryan, whose background is in consulting rather than as a high-flying trader or investment banker, will not assume the responsibility for investment banking,  said a bank manager. That is a task that was held by Mr. Jain, who unlike Mr. Cryan had long been associated with the high-flying investment bankers of the pre-2008 crisis era.

Although Mr. Cryan supported the general direction of the new strategy, he had warned against announcing the strategy without providing details on its implementation.

It is clear, though, that Mr. Cryan is to be the new face of Deutsche Bank. Despite being a British national, he also speaks German, unlike Mr. Jain. He is therefore likely to do away with the division of labor in the past where Mr. Fitschen and Supervisory Board Chairman Paul Achleitner were in charge of communicating with lawmakers in Berlin, while Mr. Jain was charged with maintaining contacts outside of Germany.

Instead, Mr. Cryan, who will be the bank's sole CEO as of the middle of next year, will be the government's contact in Berlin. To that end, the newly minted CEO and Mr. Fitschen will meet with top government officials in the coming weeks. Meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel are being planned.

But if there's one thing Deutsche Bank's roughly 100,000 employees want more than anything else, it's that Mr. Cryan will finally bring calm to the bank in the wake of so many negative headlines.

"Jain was a superstar, but now we have a down-to-earth accountant type," said a member of the works council, which represents employees.

While the new CEO has yet to speak to reporters, Mr. Cryan plans to introduce himself to Deutsche Bank bankers at employee meetings known as townhalls. "He will be visible from the very beginning," said one source close to management.

Mr. Cryan became a member of the bank's supervisory board in 2013, meaning he knows the bank well, a distinct advantage he had over other, external candidates that were mooted for his job. It's also the reason why many major investors who have been critical of the bank in the past – and played a key role in the ouster of Mr. Jain – are pinning their hopes on the British banker.

Analysts like Stuart Graham of Autonomous were impressed by Mr. Cryan's restructuring work at Swiss bank UBS, where he served as chief financial officer during the financial crisis. People who knew him when he later became the head of European operations for Singapore's Temasek state-owned investment company praise the 55-year-old as an efficient manager and shrewd thinker.

But Mr. Cryan isn’t perfect. Critics say that creativity and the ability to spark enthusiasm in others are not exactly his greatest strengths, and that he has a tendency to become bogged down in details.

But this obsession with detail isn’t necessarily a drawback. Or at least it is precisely what supervisors like Felix Hufeld, the new president of Germany's financial regulator, BaFin, expect.

"It isn't enough to have a good strategy. It's also important to make sure rules are being observed, as well as to train employees and invest billions in IT systems," said Mr. Hufeld. "This is where Deutsche Bank has some catching up to do."

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Mr. Cryan's former supervisory board colleagues are also waiting for details on how he might change the bank's so-called "Strategy 2020," a major overhaul of the bank's business model that was announced in April to lacklustre support. Although Mr. Cryan supported the general direction of the new strategy developed by the two former co-CEOs, Mr. Jain and Mr. Fitschen, he had warned against announcing the strategy in late April without providing details on its implementation. An ensuing investor revolt at the bank's annual meeting a month later proved Mr. Cryan right.

"I expect that the new CEO will present us with new information on the strategy implementation at the summer meeting in New York on July 29," said a member of the supervisory board.

Key questions remaining include which countries the bank will pull out of – the bank has only said it will leave 7-10 countries – as well as how many branches will be closed, which businesses will be discontinued and exactly how the Postbank retail subsidiary will be spun off. Mr. Cryan's job will be to solve all of these problems, and more, for the bank.

The change in leadership also creates a new problem. "We are losing one of our smartest members," said a supervisory board member. "Now we need another Cryan on the supervisory board."


Laura De La Motte is an editor at the Handelsblatt finance desk and a specialist banking correspondent. Michael Maisch is the deputy chief of Handelsblatt's finance desk in Frankfurt am Main. Sven Afhüppe is co-editor in chief of Handelsblatt. Katharina Slodczyk is Handelsblatt's London correspondent. To contact the authors: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]