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Are 'Risky Baby Steps' Enough to Satisfy Deutsche Bank's Board and Critics

September 19, 2017

Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan, who's been on the job for 2 years, is providing a progress report to the DB Board of Directors. This week's meetings are highly anticipated by investors who hope to see progress, though they're concerned that little has changed over the summer - as Cryan expressed in an interview broadcast Monday.


Cryan, however, has noted that Deutsche Bank's appetite for risk is returning as it seeks to get return to growth - though perhaps not as aggressively as some would like to see: "We are encouraging people to take on more risk. Baby steps, but we are taking on more risk. We want to grow the bank."


Two particular issues that Deutsche Bank (and other large banks) must factor into business plan are Brexit and technology.


  • As far as Brexit, Deutsche Bank must deal with a large presence in London. The bank is planning for a "reasonable worst-case" scenario that will require it to add jobs in Frankfurt as well as replicate a structure that is interchangeable with its British operations.


  • As far as technology, Cryan views such developments as an opportunity for many bank employees to create more meaningful roles within organizations - after all, Mr. Cryan has predicted that many banking roles will be taken over by automation in the next 5 to 10 years. With that in mind, Cryan is pushing bankers to focus more on interpersonal skills - something machines won't master anytime soon.

"We need to increase the number of people who face clients and counterparts and external stakeholders and reduce the number who are focused internally, producing numbers, calculating outputs."


These issues are not unique to Deutsche Bank, and the bank understands that it must step up and differentiate itself from the pack. That theme seems to be reflected in DB's newly launched TV ad campaign: "A new era requires new banking." 


Slogans aside, one large DB investor expressed the bottom-line: "We need to see progress, otherwise the bank will lose credibility." After all, "the bank doesn't have many arrows left in its quiver."