Is Deutsche Bank crumbling from the top?
Deutsche Bank will miss John Cryan. Yes, its share price has fallen 57% during his reign. Yes, there are still costs to be taken out. But Cryan is a steady pair of hands. He's "outstanding" according to the sources who seemingly told the Times that DB is looking for his replacement. There's "no one as good as John," internally those sources added.
Why, then, is DB said to be looking for an alternative to Cryan when his contract ends in 2020?
Politics looks like one answer. The Times says Cryan's fallen out with Paul Achleitner, the chairman of Deutsche's supervisory board who previously managed the German subsidiary of Goldman Sachs. Together with James von Moltke, the CFO hired-in from Citi in April 2017, the seemingly mild-mannered and "infallibly cheerful" Cryan is said to want to seriously restructure the investment bank. Von Moltke too wants a "complete overhaul" of the corporate and investment bank (CIB) after declaring publicly last week that DB is contemplating more “radical” action after a difficult first quarter and thereby effecting a 7% fall in the share price. Von Moltke said in February that Deutsche plans to get “very aggressive” on expense management in 2018.
Deutsche Bank isn't commenting on the veracity of the Times' report, but the danger is that Cryan will be a lame duck CEO for the next 21 months - unless he's paid to disappear quietly.
In the meantime, Cryan isn't the only senior Deutsche executive leaving. As we reported yesterday, Sam Wisnia head of macro trading and analytics and a member of the executive committee for the corporate and investment bank in Europe has unexpectedly left for a hedge fund. Wisnia built a large "strats" team at DB, the future for which suddenly looks unclear. It's also starting to look like chief operating officer and head of IT Kim Hammonds will leave when her contract expires. If all three go, it will be the end of an era.
In the meantime, Deutsche's alleged attempts to replace Cryan have a strange whiff of desperation. The bank is said to have contemplated hiring Jean Pierre Mustier, chief executive of Unicredit, or Bill Winters, chief executive of Standard Chartered. It's also said to have asked Richard Gnodde, who's currently paid $19m a year to run Goldman Sachs' European business and who has said no.
Cryan was paid €3.6m to run Deutsche Bank in 2017: he's not just good, he's cheap. What more could a bank with cost issues want?
And if Deutsche can't persuade an outsider to come in and run it for peanuts? Despite the protestations that no one else at DB right now is as good as Cryan is, there's always Marcus Schenck, the ex-Goldman Sachs banker who was Deutsche's CFO before Von Moltke and who now runs the corporate and investment bank. Schenck is reportedly seen as a strong candidate. He's German. He knows the investment bank. Schenck is also from Goldman Sachs and his ascension would cement Deutsche's transformation into a place run by ex-Goldmanites.
Would Schenck be enough to save Deutsche? More importantly, would he be able to turnaround the investment bank without radical action? It may be a while before we find out. For the moment, Cryan still has plenty of fans. "John is great," says one MD. "It's not even worth discussing this nonsense." Another senior Deutche Banker suggests Cryan is more popular internally than some other CEOs: "Many people are really annoyed about the lack of tangible progress, the terrible stock price and lack of clear vision, but it wouldn't be cut and dried if he went - a lot more people would be happy if Thiam left Credit Suisse."