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Commerzbank poaches Deutsche Bank senior exec as new CEO

Frankfurt

GERMAN lender Commerzbank has poached a senior executive of its larger rival Deutsche Bank to assume the role of chief executive, filling a leadership vacuum after months of turmoil.

Manfred Knof, head of Deutsche Bank's retail business in Germany, will assume the top spot at Germany's No 2 lender on Jan 1.

He succeeds Martin Zielke, who resigned this summer in the wake of a revolt led by the private equity investor Cerberus, one of the lender's largest shareholders which was pressing for big changes at the bank.

The appointment allows Commerzbank to move forward with a new strategic plan that was put on hold until a new leader was found. The bank is looking at branch closures and shedding international staff to save costs.

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Hans-Joerg Vetter, chairman of Commerzbank's supervisory board since last month, has told employees that the lender is not a "restructuring case, but Commerzbank must become more efficient".

In choosing Mr Knof, Mr Vetter overlooked two current Commerz-bank board members who had been in the running.

Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank were in merger talks last year but called them off. Since then, Deutsche Bank launched a broad restructuring that sought to cut nearly 18,000 jobs, while Commerzbank has largely marked time.

The initial reaction from one top investor was cautiously optimistic. The focus is now on implementing change, and success will very much depend on the relationship between Mr Vetter and Mr Knof, said the person with knowledge of the investor's position.

Deutsche Bank's deputy CEO, Karl von Rohr, will take over Mr Knof's responsibilities, Deutsche Bank said. REUTERS

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