Dark fears at Deutsche Bank's distant UK office

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Deutsche Bank Birmingham

A Birmingham backstreet

As the UK's second city, Birmingham isn't that far from London: it takes less than 1.5 hours to get there by train. Even so, employees at Deutsche Bank's office at Birmingham's Brindley Place are starting to feel a bit far away from the action.

We've written about fears for Brindley Place before. In September, we reported that Birmingham staff were nervous of losing their jobs under the double whammy of Brexit and CEO Christian Sewing's effort to get global costs at the bank below €23bn. Back then, insiders complained that Birmingham hiring had slowed and that a shift to London seemed to be underway.

Two months later, there's little to assuage those concerns. In September, Deutsche Bank was advertising 13 jobs in Birmingham; today it's advertising nine. CEO Christian Sewing is adamant that cost cutting is over in the front office, but this simply means the kinds of back and middle office jobs that comprise the bulk of Deutsche's 1,500 roles in Birmingham are where the costs will be taken out in future. At the same time, there are dark mutterings about Deutsche's intentions for its Birmingham office; some of those who work there purport to be very concerned.

Speaking off the record, one senior insider suggested that some of the bank's top technology teams in Birmingham are being quietly hollowed out as jobs are being returned to London.

"We have lost all our network deployment and firewall deployment teams," he says. "Some of these jobs are effectively being relocated to the global network services team at Canary Wharf. Some members of the team have left or been made redundant, while others have been asked to become contingency workers under the HCL Partnership, and to relocate to London working for Deutsche Bank AG [the German parent group] rather than Deutsche Bank in the UK." Senior staff like Simon Peach, who's been at DB in Birmingham for 10 years as head of service operations, are rumoured to be on the move.

Deutsche Bank didn't respond to a request to comment for this article and there was no one answering Peach's phone the several times we called. With luck, the bleaker Birmingham mutterings will prove no more than halitotic hot air. However, staff at Deutsche's Birmingham outpost are unlikely to feel totally secure for a while. - Costs consumed 95% of revenues at Deutsche's corporate and investment bank in the third quarter and CFO James von Moltke said earlier this month that the bank plans to massage costs down as a percentage of revenues in 2019, potentially taking out more than €2bn in additional costs in the process.

The ongoing squeeze has not gone unnoticed at Brindley Place. "We have been advised that up to 150 jobs are due to go in Birmingham in the New Year," claims one insider, who alleges that IT operations headcount at the Birmingham office may be trimmed by up to 30% in 2019.

These claims may not be true, but it's notable that Deutsche is investing heavily in a new software centre in Bucharest, Romania.  Birmingham is cheaper than London, but it's not that cheap. As Von Moltke and Sewing look to cut costs and cope with Brexit, the bank's second big office in the UK may find itself at the forefront of any cull to come.

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