“New ara”: where is christian sewing taking deutsche bank??

Expectations for the new head of deutsche bank were high – but after one year in office, christian sewing’s record is comparatively modest.

Germany’s biggest money house is still a long way from its former glory days. Will a merger with commerzbank give us new clout??

Sewing could have been the climber of the year: on 8. April 2018 the supervisory board of deutsche bank orders the then 47-year-old "with immediate effect" to the chief post of the roughest german money house. After three years of losses and in view of a tough reorganization of the group under CEO john cryan, the auditors expect "strong leadership" and "assertiveness".

But sewing has to realize that even a youthful, lively appearance and the demand for a "hunter’s mentality" will not work wonders among the workforce. During sewing’s time in office, the already weak share price of deutsche bank fell by around a third, reaching a historic low of 6.68 euros at the end of december 2018.

The shadows of the past also continue to haunt the money house: a high-profile money laundering raid in the twin towers in frankfurt at the end of november scared off customers and shareholders and was ultimately a reason for the red figures in the final quarter of 2018. The fact that the european central bank (ECB) has postponed the turnaround in interest rates until at least 2020 is causing problems for the entire industry. According to information from "handelsblatt", deutsche bank is looking for further savings potential after a weak first quarter of 2019.

Wherever he appears, sewing presents himself as a doer. Under his leadership, deutsche bank achieves its first annual net profit since 2014. The institution has a "strong balance sheet" and "a very stable foundation for the next phase," sewing said in early february. The management board has a clear growth plan for 2019: "we have it in our own hands," sewing emphasizes.

That sounds like a claim to leadership – and according to media reports, that’s exactly what deutsche bank is demanding in talks with commerzbank management: it amounts to a takeover of the smaller competitor, the "suddeutsche zeitung" recently wrote, citing insiders. On the stock market, commerzbank, which has been relegated to the mdax and has had the federal government as a major shareholder since the financial crisis, is currently worth about half as much as deutsche bank, which has also shrunk.

After months of politicians feeding the idea of a big bank wedding, the strong men at deutsche bank are looking to get their act together again. "The consolidation of the banking sector in germany and europe is an important issue for us, as i have repeatedly emphasized. We have to decide how we want to shape it," sewing wrote to his employees on the day the talks with commerzbank were announced in mid march. The management of deutsche bank must "deal with opportunities as they arise".

Chairman of the supervisory board paul achleitner sets the course for the future. The head of deutsche bank considers a merger with commerzbank to make "macro-economic sense," according to media reports. At an event in vaduz last wednesday, achleitner said: "whether it also makes sense from a business point of view is now up for review." This is the task of the management board.

Achleitner already formulated what he expects from sewing when he appointed the then head of private customers to the top management of the group: "in his more than 25 years at deutsche bank, christian sewing has consistently demonstrated that he is a strong leader and has great powers of persuasion. The supervisory board is convinced that he and his team will succeed in leading deutsche bank successfully into a new era." Whether and how commerzbank fits into this "new ara" of deutsche bank is to be made clear by the end of april.

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