Europe’s main banking regulator is pushing Deutsche Bank to find a successor to President Paul Achleitner, who will leave in May 2022 when his second five-year term expires.
The European Central Bank has repeatedly urged Germany’s largest lender to present a clear succession plan in recent months, people briefed on the matter told the Financial Times.
“Corporate governance is a key regulatory priority [for the ECB]One of the people said, adding that the succession was a key topic of discussion between the bank and the regulator.
The person added that the ECB wanted to be involved in the decision but feared Deutsche would present the nomination as a fait accompli before next year’s annual meeting of shareholders.
Reuters was the first to report the news. The watchdog and the bank declined to comment.
Achleitner will leave Deutsche next year after a difficult 10-year stint in which Deutsche announced € 12 billion in cumulative losses, raised € 19.5 billion in new capital and announced five strategic reorganizations.
Its shares lost 60% of their value during this period. However, since Christian Sewing was appointed Managing Director in 2018 and embarked on an ambitious cost reduction and partial withdrawal from the investment bank, performance has improved.
Achleitner’s estate is managed by Mayree Clark, member of Deutsche’s supervisory board since 2018 and founder and former managing partner of the US investment fund Eachwin Capital.
She replaced Achleitner as head of the supervisory board nomination committee last summer.
The bank has clashed several times with regulators over governance in recent years. In 2019, the ECB vetoed the appointment to Deutsche’s board of directors of Jürg Zeltner, a former senior banker at UBS who was also the head of the Qatar-backed European private banking group KBL, a direct competitor of Deutsche.
In April, the German regulator BaFin publicly reprimand Deutsche for poor anti-money laundering controls. The watchdog broadened and extended the mandate of a special representative who parachuted into the bank in 2018 to monitor the lender’s progress in strengthening its internal controls.
People familiar with Deutsche’s succession process said Clark has been in regular contact with the ECB.
Internally, three members of the bank’s supervisory board – nicknamed “the three W’s” – were seen as potential candidates: Deutsche Börse CEO Theodor Weimer, former PwC Germany boss Norbert Winkeljohann and the former Volkswagen chief financial officer Frank Witter.
Weimer could only take on the role if he resigned from Deutsche Börse, where he has a contract until 2024. At a press conference earlier this year, he dismissed the idea, saying it was “not at all a topic of discussion” that he could succeed Achleitner. Weimer declined to comment via Deutsche Börse.
Winkeljohann is already chairman of German chemicals giant Bayer and a member of two other supervisory boards.
Witter, who headed Volkswagen’s financial services arm before becoming CFO, only joined Deutsche’s board of directors last month. Neither immediately responded to a request for comment from the FT. Achleitner and Clark declined to comment.
The news that the ECB is not happy with Deutsche’s handling of the succession process is another issue in a week when two senior bankers resigned more than investigation in the potential abusive sale of foreign exchange derivatives which has driven corporate clients in financial distress.
In addition, Deutsche warned investors Thursday that a court ruling on bank account fees in Germany would drive a € 300 million hole in its annual profits. CFO James von Moltke has also hinted that Deutsche may miss its cost-cutting target for 2022, as next year’s bank withdrawals are likely to be higher than expected.