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Morning Coffee: When you messed up your banking job, but your bosses think you're great. Secret meaning of a firm handshake

Paul  Achleitner can hardly be called consistent. After all, the ex-Bain & Co., ex-Goldman Sachs, ex-Allianz chairman of Deutsche Bank hired-in the (now ex) CEO of Deutsche Bank, John Cryan, after engineering the exit of previous CEO Anshu Jain. When Cryan arrived back in 2015, Achleitner said he espoused the "professional and personal values" needed to advance the bank's strategy. Three years down the road, it was Achleitner who maneuvered Cryan out because (he said) the strategy hadn't been executed. And he didn't do so particularly deftly.

Achleitner's ousting of Cryan was marked by endless mystery briefings against the mild-mannered British CEO by, "someone close to the chairman." Suddenly in late-March, someone close to the chairman let it be known that all sorts of other people were being considered for Cryan's job. Over the next few weeks (while Achleitner was on holiday and potentially free to create mischief) there were a succession of further confusing briefings and rumours: Cryan's exit wasn't inevitable, Cryan might be replaced by Juerg Zeltner, the former head of the wealth management business of UBS, Garth Ritchie had spoken to Achleitner about leaving DB, etc.

Needless to say, Cryan has now gone (despite two thirds of you thinking he should have stayed) and is quietly recovering somewhere in France. Ritchie is now head of the corporate and investment bank, and Achleitner is still chairman. Achleitner's endurance comes as something as a surprise: only a few weeks ago, Bloomberg was pointing out his culpability for the Cryan debacle and the fact that this wasn't Achleitner's only U-turn - he was also instrumental in the decision not to float Postbank, despite this being key to the bank's strategy in 2015. 

Irrespective of Achleitner's inconsistencies and despite predictions that he'll face a a hard time at Deutsche's annual shareholder meeting in May, Achleitner still seems to be the class favourite. Yesterday, Deutsche Bank's supervisory board issued a statement to the effect that accusations of Achleitner's incompetence are "groundless" and that they have "full confidence in his performance of office." It probably helps that various members of the supervisory board  were selected by Achleitner himself.

Either way, there are lessons here for anyone trying to keep their job in an investment bank. Firstly, engineer such disarray that to eject you would be to risk even further dissolution, thereby ensuring you have to be kept-on for reasons of 'consistency.' Secondly, create a mutually dependent relationship with your bosses. It will help if your positions are interdependent and your superiors are somehow indebted to you for their good fortune. In this way, impregnability lies. You don't want to be a John Cryan, muddling on and making light witticisms, while arch-schemers are operating in the shadows.

Separately, if you are male you might want to cultivate a very firm approach to shaking hands. A new study suggests a firm handshake is a reflection of muscular strength, social dominance, and reproductive success.


Deutsche Bank's board says splitting out the investment bank from the retail bank would have, "inferior economics and strategic outcomes.” (Bloomberg)

Deutsche Bank's new COO comes the retail, private and commercial banking division and has been working with retail boss-turned CEO Christian Sewing. (WSJ)   

Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU’s commissioner for financial services, is all for equivalence for financial services firms after Brexit (rather than a bespoke deal). (Financial Times) 

Goldman Sachs is relocating Mazen Makarem from Dubai to NYC to cover funds and family offices. (Bloomberg)   

Credit Suisse hired TMT banker Geoffrey Baram from Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong. (Global Capital) 

Andrea Orcel says that under Mifid II banks are seeing equity trading volumes move through "the market leaders, the people who provide you the best content, people who provide you the best execution". (Financial News) 

How it is when you leave banking for a start-up: 'Working from home, with only his two cofounders for company, completely running out of money not once, not twice, but three times, and only being saved by some lucky last-minute cash.' (Forbes) 

Technology contractor? You might want to work for SurveyMonkey. (EmployeeBenefitNews) 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Il
    Ile de France
    25 April 2018

    Very good analysis of the strategy of getting rid of one's potential challengers when one is incompetent himself. The shareholders should get rid of that Chairman who seems more preoccupied by saving his own scalp than providing leadership. Time to pack and go. But the Board is as guilty if they continue supporting the incumbent. They should be asked to go too. Once the leader of European banking and now the laughing stock of the market. DB lost the plot and has to make a choice now about its future direction or surrender its ambitions of being a challenger to the US giants to retrench into the retail banking sector in Germany. Not a glamourous prospect. I believe that in other EU boardrooms challengers have already started sharpening their sabres to attack DB's franchise.

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