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Deutsche Bank's new Asia CEO chooses to relocate to Singapore

Move comes as Hong Kong is embroiled in unprecedented political turbulence after more than a year of protests

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Deutsche Banks says it remains committed to its dual-hub structure in the Asia-Pacific.

Hong Kong

DEUTSCHE Bank's new Asia chief executive officer will be based in Singapore, picking the city-state over Hong Kong at a volatile time for the Chinese territory.

Alexander von zur Muehlen, the new CEO for Asia-Pacific, is relocating from Frankfurt when he takes over the job at the start of next month, according to a bank spokeswoman.

His predecessor, Hong Kong-based Werner Steinmueller, is retiring at the end of July. Kamran Khan, the bank's new head of environmental, social and governance for the region, will also be based in Singapore, moving from the US.

The decision comes as Hong Kong is embroiled in unprecedented political turbulence after more than a year of anti-government protests and now in the cross-hairs of a broader fight between US and China.

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In an intense rivalry with Singapore, Hong Kong has long been a hub for Asian finance, with nearly all of the major global banks, including Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup, having their top regional executive in the city. This would be the first time in at least a decade for the German bank to put its sole Asia CEO outside Hong Kong.

China last month passed a national security law to rein in criticism of its rule in the city, raising concerns that its "one country, two systems" framework devised to maintain its freedom of expression, capitalist financial system and independent judiciary will be undermined.

Granted, Deutsche Bank has had placed its co-CEO for the region in Singapore. From 2012 to 2016, the Asian business was run by co-CEOs Alan Cloete and Gunit Chadha, who worked out of Hong Kong and Singapore, respectively.

The two were replaced by Mr Steinmueller in 2016, the first management board member to be based in the fast-growing region, according to the press release.

"We remain committed to our dual-hub structure in Asia-Pacific," a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman said.

Singapore has been one of the major hubs for Deutsche Bank's commercial banking and fixed income services while its wealth management, corporate finance and asset management is predominately staffed out of Hong Kong.

The German bank is exiting its equities sales and trading operations globally. It posted a 100 million euro loss (S$158.6 million) in Hong Kong last year, where it had 1,035 employees.

In Singapore, where it had 1,921 full-time staff, the bank posted a 102 million euro profit, according to its annual report. Combined credit exposure in China and Hong Kong amounted to 13.6 billion euros, compared with 7.5 billion euros in Singapore. BLOOMBERG

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