Commerzbank to boost client growth

by BLOOMBERG

FRANKFURTCommerzbank AG plans to step up efforts to attract new clients as some investors urge the company to accelerate a plan by CEO Martin Zielke to add two million new customers by the end of 2020.

“We have lined up acquisition initiatives which will ramp up in spring,” CFO Stephan Engels said yesterday, after presenting better than expected fourth-quarter results. Investors “unanimously” support the strategy, with a “growing” group saying the company should “do more and more quickly”, even if it hurt profitability, he said.

The pace of client acquisitions dropped last quarter to the lowest since Zielke first announced his plan in late 2016, in part because management tried to keep a lid on expenses. The company posted net income of €90 million (RM432 million) for the quarter and said it seeks to resume dividend payments for this year, lifting the stock by the most in four weeks. Larger rival Deutsche Bank AG last week posted its third consecutive annual loss, raising investor concerns about its strategy.

Both lenders are still in the middle of a turnaround to refocus on corporate and retail clients and away from volatile trading, after getting burned by losses in the financial crisis and thereafter. Zielke, a former retail banker, is cutting costs, investing in technology and spending on client acquisition in a bet that interest income will pick up once borrowing costs in Europe start to rise.

“The dividend announcement is a positive surprise and will support the share price,” said Markus Riesselmann, an analyst with Independent Research in Frankfurt who has sell recommendation on the stock. — Bloomberg