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Deutsche Bank seen replacing CEO Cryan with Sewing

Choice of current co-deputy CEO points to strategic shift towards retail banking in home market Germany

The promotion of Mr Sewing comes as Deutsche Bank and its major shareholders debate the path forward for the investment banking unit where revenues have dried up and key staff defected.


CHRISTIAN Sewing, currently co-deputy chief executive officer of Deutsche Bank, is to become the new CEO of Germany's biggest lender, replacing John Cryan, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday.

Mr Sewing, a German national, would replace Mr Cryan, a Briton, at a time when the bank is trying to strengthen its brand in its home market. Mr Cryan has been in office less than three years but investors have lost faith that he can return the bank to profitability after three consecutive years of losses.

The promotion of Mr Sewing, 47, with a background in commercial banking, auditing and risk, comes as Deutsche Bank and its major shareholders debate the path forward for the investment banking unit where revenues have dried up and key staff defected.

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Following weeks of speculation, the move is to come late on Sunday during a supervisory board meeting at the bank's Frankfurt headquarters. News weekly Der Spiegel and business newspaper Handelsblatt said the bank would tap Mr Sewing, 47, to take over in May from Mr Cryan.

Deutsche Bank, which declined to comment on the Spiegel report, called the surprise meeting "to discuss the chairmanship and to take a decision the same day", it said on Saturday.

While Mr Cryan's contract runs until 2020, press reports in recent days have suggested a rift over strategy with supervisory board chairman Paul Achleitner, who called Sunday's meeting.

The choice of Mr Sewing over investment banking chief Marcus Schenck, who had been discussed as a possible successor to Mr Cryan, points to a strategic shift towards retail banking in its home market Germany.

Mr Sewing "is popular among staff in Germany but is likely to meet with scepticism among foreign investment bankers", Handelsblatt said. Given sole command of the lender in 2016 after the departure of co-CEO Juergen Fitschen, Mr Cryan's task was to restructure Deutsche and clean up the toxic legacy of its pre-financial crisis bid to compete with global investment banking giants. He has neutralised the worst legal threats, in part by paying billions in fines and compensation, strengthened Deutsche's capital foundations with an eight-billion-euro (S$13 billion) share issue last year and floated asset management division DWS on the stock market in March.

But "the financial results have so far not been what all of us would want them to be", Mr Cryan, 57, acknowledged in a letter to employees last month while fighting to keep his job, referring to an unexpected 751-million-euro loss reported for 2017. While the bank said the loss was a one-off caused by US President Donald Trump's corporate tax reform, investors have shunned Deutsche since the start of the year, with its stock dropping around 30 per cent in value since Jan 1. Handelsblatt said last month that Deutsche Bank remains "what it was when Cryan took the helm: a chronic patient".

Mr Cryan was seen as a trouble-shooter after his successful steering of Swiss bank UBS through the financial crisis as finance director between 2008 and 2011. But he met his match with the German lender. "It was clear from the beginning that Cryan's time in office would be limited and that his job would be 'clearing up past mistakes'. He's not a charismatic leader personality or a visionary," professor Sascha Steffen of the Frankfurt school of finance told Handelsblatt.

"He had to battle serious problems that his predecessors swept under the rug for years," Markus Riesselmann, analyst at Independent Research, told AFP. REUTERS, AFP