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Frankfurt (Reuters) – A new era is starting at Deutsche Bank.
After a turbulent decade in which Germany’s largest bank suffered billions in losses, the share price collapsed, but also prepared the ground for a reorganization, board chairman Paul Achleitner leaves the Frankfurt bank. If all goes to plan, shareholders will pave the way for former head of Dutch insurance giant Aegon Alexander Wynaendts at a virtual general meeting on Thursday to replace Achleitner as chief controller. In November, after a long search, the bank proposed a 61-year-old Dutchman in the election.
“Today I look back at the eventful years in a difficult phase for our bank,” Achleitner said in a virtual meeting. “I am leaving Deutsche Bank with the firm conviction that over the last few years we have all set a course for a successful future,” explained the 65-year-old, who took over as Chairman of the Supervisory Board in 2012.
CEO Christian Sewing believes that, after years of successful transformation, the box office is on track to achieve its goals. “Many of you have remained loyal to us over the past few years and have placed their trust in us,” Sewing said at the annual general meeting. The moment has come to repay this trust. The institute wants to buy back its own shares for EUR 300 million in the first half of 2022 and pay out a dividend of 20 cents per share for 2021. The dividend of eleven groszy was paid for the last time for the financial year 2018.
Acquisitions and mergers are not a priority at Deutsche Bank. They would only be considered at the institute if they complement the bank’s strengths and could create strategic added value, Sewing said. “The main goal of Deutsche Bank is now to implement a communicated strategy that allows us to build on the bank’s strengths and move towards a phase of sustainable growth,” he explained.
The staff change in the bank’s supervisory body takes place when the financial group has regained stability. Deutsche Bank recently posted its seventh consecutive quarterly profit – the highest in nine years. The sewing room initiated a comprehensive restructuring of the group in 2019. Departments were closed, particularly risky parts of investment banking were sold, and difficult savings were made. As part of the drastic treatment, 18,000 jobs are to be shed worldwide.
Wynaendts promised shareholders in a video message that he would do anything for the institute. “Deutsche Bank has gone through turbulent times, but in recent years it has gotten back on track with a clear strategy,” he said. “It will continue to focus on its strengths and maintain discipline in controlling costs.” Wynaendts took up the top position at Aegon in 2008, shortly after the start of the financial crisis, and then led the insurer for twelve years until 2020, during which time it underwent a major restructuring.
With Mr. Wynaendts, a new era is beginning for Deutsche Bank, said Andreas Thomae, portfolio manager at Deka, an important shareholder of the bank. Unlike its predecessor, hopefully it will lead the bank through a slightly calmer phase. “We believe he’s the right man at the top of the board,” said Thomae. “One of his main tasks will be to promote the strengthening of resilient business areas in order to be able to compensate for cyclical weaknesses in investment banking.”
In turn, the fund company Union Investment was critical. She announced that she would vote against Wynaendt’s election to the supervisory board. Fund manager Alexandra Annecke cited the accumulation of offices as the reason. She also criticized the “significant imbalance” between high wages and bonuses and low returns on equity at the bank. “This imbalance can and must be corrected in favor of shareholders by giving ambitious return targets a higher priority in variable remuneration,” she demanded. Shareholders continue to receive lean tariffs, while management payouts and bonuses are at their peak.
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