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The new most precarious place to work at Deutsche Bank?

Deutsche Bank is going to Frankfurt. Or at least its assets are: the Financial Times reports that the bank is moving 75% of its assets to the German city in the next three to five years as it becomes the primary booking hub for DB's investment banking clients after Brexit. There's no indication that this will affect jobs, but some people at Deutsche Bank are already looking askance at what comes next.

They include the 1,500 or so people currently working for Deutsche Bank in Birmingham. As Brexit looks and Deutsche Bank embarks upon the next phase of a cost cutting program intended to get costs below €23bn in 2018 and €22bn in 2019, some of Deutsche's Birmingham staff are looking nervously over their shoulders.

"We're concerned that Birmingham will seem replaceable," says one insider in the Birmingham office, speaking off the record. "London will always be seen as the financial capital of the world, but Birmingham doesn't have the same kudos with DB clients and a lot of the functions that we're doing here could also be undertaken in India, Manila or Romania - particularly as Christian Sewing is cutting costs."

Sewing hasn't said anything specific about the Birmingham office, and Deutsche Bank declined to comment for this article. However, when Sewing first presented his strategy for Deutsche Bank in April 2018 he spoke of 'rationalizing' real estate costs worldwide, a statement some Deutsche Bank insiders have taken to mean that the bank is looking to consolidate operations in a few large offices. Concerned Birmingham insiders point to the fact that Deutsche already moved most of its Birmingham staff to a single office at Five Brindley Place in Birmingham last year, whereas previously it occupied both building five and building one.

"There's a lot less hiring in Birmingham now than there was," says the insider. "We also had fewer promotions here last year in comparison to London, and bonuses are lower."

The corporate and investment banking team at Deutsche Bank's Birmingham office is now run by Ashton Brown, a director who joined from RBS in 2014. Erik Simonsen, the former head of the corporate banking and securities division at DB in Birmingham, left the bank for a job in Los Angeles in mid-2016. Simonsen previously boasted that Deutsche had increased front office revenues from its Birmingham business by 150% and was planning a trading floor to seat 270 people. 

The consolidation of Deutsche's Birmingham operations into a single building may well be the result of nothing more ominous than the bank's negotiation of a new lease for five Brindley Place in 2015, making the occupation of one larger building an inevitability. However, it's difficult to deny that Deutsche's Birmingham recruitment has slowed: the bank is currently advertising just 13 jobs in the city, compared to 93 in London, or 20 in Romania, where the bank is building out a technology centre in Bucharest. 

It's the latter that some Deutsche Birmingham staff are looking at with particular concern. Deutsche itself describes its Birmingham jobs as primarily concerned with risk, compliance monitoring, technology and infrastructure. As Sewing looks to rationalize locations in the UK both because of Brexit and cost-cutting, the fear is that Romania will be the big beneficiary. Suggestions two years ago that Deutsche was reviewing its UK locations because of Brexit haven't helped, nor have vague rumours of the demise of the Birmingham office in October 2017. If Bournemouth is dreading Britain's exit from the EU, maybe Birmingham should be too?

For the moment, though, there's no indication that Deutsche plans to seriously prune its Birmingham operations. Nor, however, is there much sign of the 270 front office Birmingham jobs promised by Simonsen over two years ago. All of the 13 jobs currently being advertised at Deutsche Bank in Birmingham are for compliance, regulatory reporting and reward roles. Meanwhile, insiders suggest that some of the investment banking roles previously housed in Birmingham have migrated already. - Cesar Rodriguez Figuera, whom we previously flagged as occupying an unlikely Spanish coverage role out of Birmingham, moved to Madrid nine months ago, for example.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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