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Germany’s largest lender Deutsche Bank said Thursday it will slash over 7,000 jobs and dramatically scale back its investment banking activities as it seeks to turn the page on years of losses.
The announcement came just hours before the bank’s annual general meeting kicked off, where newly appointed chief executive Christian Sewing sought to reassure unhappy investors Deutsche is ready to do what it takes to return to profitability.
“We are not yet where we should be. Therefore we must act, and we must act swiftly and forcefully,” Sewing told shareholders in Frankfurt.
In a statement, Deutsche said the number of full-time positions globally would fall from 97,000 “to well below 90,000”. “The associated personnel reductions are underway,” it added.
Deutsche did not mention which countries would be affected, but said a quarter of the jobs in its equities and sales trading business would be cut.
The jobs cull is the first big decision taken by Sewing, who unexpectedly replaced CEO John Cryan in early April.
Sewing had already signalled he was planning deep cuts at Deutsche’s trouble-plagued investment banking arm, shifting the focus to more stable business activities such as retail banking, particularly in Europe.
“We remain committed to our corporate and investment bank and our international presence,” Sewing said.
“We are Europe’s alternative in the international financing and capital markets business. However, we must concentrate on what we truly do well.”
As part of the revamp, Deutsche added that it will reduce the investment bank’s exposures by over 100 billion euros, or around 10 percent.
Deutsche also said it would step up its cost-cutting drive, aiming to reduce adjusted costs to 22 billion euros ($26 billion) in 2019, compared with 23 billion this year.
“Overall, we see today’s announcement as the right step,” JPMorgan analysts said in a client note.
Investors appeared unimpressed however, with Deutsche shares slipping 1.10 percent to 10.78 by 0945 GMT, against a Dax index of leading German shares up 0.16 percent.
Thursday’s shareholder gathering is likely to be a stormy one, with investors expected to vent their anger over the bank’s disappointing stock performance, poor earnings results and last month’s turbulent leadership reshuffle.
Former CEO Cryan was unceremoniously ousted after coming under growing pressure from leading shareholders and supervisory board chief Paul Achleitner, who accused the Briton of taking too long to get the financial giant back on track after it posted its third year of losses in 2017.
Sewing, a Deutsche veteran, has vowed to refocus Deutsche Bank on retail banking and asset management, seen as more stable sources of income, while slimming down its share trading and other investment banking activities.
In corporate banking, Deutsche plans to slash its commitment to the United States and Asia, and instead focus more on Germany and Europe.
Other items on Deutsche’s restructuring to-do list include fully integrating subsidiary Postbank into its German retail banking operations and further reducing its massive holdings of financial derivatives.
‘More effective leadership’
Deutsche’s woes can in part be traced back to its bold attempt to compete with Wall Street investment banks in the years leading up to the financial crisis — which left the German giant saddled with a toxic legacy of risky assets and costly legal challenges.
Although ex-boss Cryan was credited with neutralising the worst legal threats, mostly by paying billions in fines and compensation, he failed to drag the bank back into the black.
Deutsche even reported a bigger-than-expected net loss of 735 million euros in 2017, which it blamed mainly on US President Donald Trump’s corporate tax reform.
By early 2018, disgruntled investors had driven the bank’s share price to below half its 2015 level, prompting supervisory board chairman Achleitner to look for a new top manager.
Yet Achleitner has since come in the firing line himself for overseeing years of failed strategies at the bank, and his own future could hang in the balance when he faces a no-confidence vote on Thursday.
Shareholder advisor Hermes EOS said in a statement earlier this week that Deutsche should “start to consider plans for the succession of Paul Achleitner”, calling for “more effective leadership and management stability” at Deutsche.