Deutsche Bank’ succession
Jul 1st 2011, 19:30 by D.S.| BERLIN
DEUTSCHE BANK, Germany’s biggest, may be preparing to make some moves to clear up its succession problem: who is to take over when Josef Ackermann steps down as chief executive some time between now and 2013? Deutsche’s bigger shareholders have been complaining that Clemens Börsig, chairman of the supervisory board, has failed to tackle the succession question, other than once proposing himself for the job. On July 1st there was a shift in the logjam.
It emerged that Axel Weber, former president of the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, who had been touted as a possible Ackermann successor, has agreed to become the next chairman of UBS, a big Swiss bank, instead. At the same time sources at Deutsche Bank indicate that Mr Ackermann would be available to succeed Mr Börsig as supervisory-board chairman. Previously he had said he would retire to academe. Something seems to have changed his mind.
Mr Ackermann has been looking increasingly ambassadorial these days as he and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, spearhead negotiations between the government and German banks on sharing the pain of a Greek bail-out. As chairman of the Institute of International Finance, a global bankers’ lobby group, and head of one of the few surviving big players after the financial crisis, he carries a certain clout. Memories of him as public enemy number one, extracting a 25% return on equity from frothy and opaque markets to pay himself and his crew large bonuses, have faded.
With Mr Ackermann as chairman, some objections to appointing Anshu Jain, his investment-banking supremo, as chief executive become less acute. Mr Jain is not a German-speaker and he operates from London. But with the trusty Mr Ackermann doing the ambassadorial stuff in Germany and the euro zone that should be less of a problem, says an activist shareholder. Suddenly a bunch of other candidates on the management board, who might have looked rather junior as sole chief executive, seem possible as a co-head with Mr Jain: Rainer Neske, who heads business and retail banking, or Hugo Bänziger, chief risk officer. In the early 1980s Deutsche Bank did well with joint speakers of the management board. This assumes, of course, that Mr Ackermann and his bank continue to have a good crisis.