Deutsche Bank plans board shifts

CEO Cryan struggling to retain investor backing amid a slump in revenue despite resetting strategy since taking over in 2015


FRANKFURT • Deutsche Bank AG is preparing to reshuffle its supervisory board as the future of CEO John Cryan and chairman Paul Achleitner is called into question.

John Thain (picture), a former CEO of Merrill Lynch, is expected to join the troubled German bank in May, according to a person with knowledge of the lender’s plans. He is one of four nominees invited by the supervisory board to fill positions coming open this year, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

Cryan has been struggling to retain investor backing amid a slump in revenue despite resetting strategy since taking over in 2015. Concerns about the bank’s turnaround prompted Achleitner to hold discussions with potential successors, people with knowledge of the discussions said last week. The chairman is also coming under fire for having failed to forge a recovery after going through three CEOs in six years.

“I definitely welcome the overhaul of the supervisory board, although I would have liked to see it happen earlier,” said Andreas Meyer, who manages fixed income securities including Deutsche Bank bonds at Aramea Asset Management in Hamburg.

He noted the shift to more directors with financial-sector backgrounds on the board, though a balance might be preferable, he said.

“Should Achleitner now decide to replace Cryan, he has to step down as well,” said Meyer. “He has been chairman of the supervisory board since May 2012 and that means he shares responsibility for the current situation.”

Absolutely Committed
Speculation about Cryan’s position prompted the executive to tell staff on March 28 that he’s “absolutely committed” to serving the bank and continuing his work.

It’s the latest challenge to hit the 148-year-old institution, which has struggled to recover from the financial crisis that exploded in 2008. A sustained slide at the investment bank has contributed to hundreds of job cuts as the firm seeks to curb costs and improve returns. The shares have declined nearly 30% since the start of the year.

The bank is now conducting a fresh review of its trading businesses, Bloomberg News reported last week. Cryan is examining activities where Europe’s largest investment bank is trailing competitors to determine if it should try to win back market share or exit, said people familiar with the review, dubbed Project Colombo.

The relationship between Achleitner and Cryan has been strained for a while. The chairman has been critical of the CEO’s performance and was taken aback last year when Cryan discussed the prospect of a contract renewal beyond 2020 in interviews with Bloomberg and Handelsblatt, according to people familiar with the matter. That deterred efforts to prepare for a possible succession, they said.

While much of the discontent has focused on Cryan, one top shareholder also criticised Achleitner for failing to replace Cryan sooner. Other analysts and investors — pointing to the turmoil at the bank during his tenure — have said the chairman also bears responsibility for the bank’s travails.

New Faces
Michele Trogni, a former executive at IHS Markit Ltd and UBS Group AG, and Mayree Clark, a former Morgan Stanley wealth-management executive, are set to join the board along with Thain, said the person.

Deutsche Bank supervisory board members whose terms expire this year are Johannes Teyssen, Dina Dublon, Henning Kagermann and Louise M Parent.

Achleitner has contacted possible candidates including Juerg Zeltner, UBS Group AG’s former wealth-management chief, about replacing Cryan, but the talks haven’t progressed to an offer for the post, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News.

Other possible options included Standard Chartered plc CEO Bill Winters and Uni- Credit SpA chief Jean Pierre Mustier, the people said.