FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank laid off staff in Asia yesterday as it began cutting 18,000 jobs as part of a 7.4 billion euro ($8.3 billion) “reinvention” set to tip Germany’s largest lender into yet another annual loss.
In a retreat from a long-held ambition to make its struggling investment bank, which employs 38,000 people, a force on Wall Street, Deutsche Bank said on Sunday it would scrap its global equities operations and cut some in fixed income.
Shares in Deutsche Bank, which has almost 91,500 staff around the world, were slightly lower in Frankfurt as the bank’s finance chief said there was “significant uncertainty” whether it would break even in 2020.
Chief Executive Christian Sewing told journalists from the bank’s London office, where many of the cuts are expected, that he was “doing nothing short of reinventing” Deutsche Bank, which will have been in the red for four out of the past five years as it dealt with a series of setbacks.
Bankers seen leaving Deutsche Bank’s Sydney office yesterday said they had been laid off, but declined to be identified as they were due to return later to sign redundancy packages. Sewing said job cuts would continue in London and New York.
JP Morgan analysts called the plan “bold and for the first time not half-baked” but questioned the credibility of execution, revenue growth and employee motivation.
Ratings agency Moody’s said Deutsche Bank faced “significant challenges” to executing the plan swiftly and said it would keep its negative outlook on the bank.
“It’s a risky manoeuvre, but if it succeeds, it has the potential to bring the bank back on course,” a person close to one of the top 10 biggest shareholders said.
Deutsche Bank gave no geographic breakdown for the job cuts, although the bulk are expected in Europe and the United States.
In Sydney, Hong Kong and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region the working day began with cuts and several Deutsche bankers said entire teams in sales and trading were going.
A person with knowledge of the bank’s Australia operations said its four-strong equity capital markets (ECM) team was being disbanded, but most of its mergers and acquisitions (M&A) team was not immediately affected.
Deutsche Bank used to rank among the top 10 banks in league tables for ECM deals in Asia, but had slipped in recent years, hitting 17th last year and 18th in 2019, Refinitiv data showed. So far this year, it ranks 8th regionally for M&A activity.
Deutsche had some 4,700 staff at its main regional offices in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore, factsheets on its website showed.
Its investment banking team for the Asia-Pacific region had about 300 people before the cuts, of which 10 percent to 15 percent will be laid off, almost all in its ECM division, said a senior Asia banker with direct knowledge of the plans.
One laid off equities trader in Hong Kong said the mood was “pretty gloomy” as people were called in to meetings. “They give you this packet and you are out of the building,” he said.
Several workers left offices holding envelopes with the bank’s logo. Three employees took a picture of themselves beside a Deutsche Bank logo outside, hugged and then hailed a taxi.
“If you have a job for me please let me know. But do not ask questions,” said one Deutsche employee.
A spokeswoman would not comment on details but said the bank would be “as sensitive as possible implementing these changes”.
“We are creating a bank that will be more profitable, leaner, more innovative and more resilient,” Sewing wrote in a note sent to staff on Sunday.
The bank will set up a so-called bad bank to wind-down unwanted assets, with 74 billion euros of risk-weighted assets.
Sewing will represent the investment bank on the board in a shift that illustrates the division’s waning influence.
The CEO flagged the restructuring in May, promising shareholders “tough cutbacks” to the investment bank. It followed Deutsche’s failure to agree a merger with rival Commerzbank AG.
“The new investment bank will be smaller but more resilient, with a focus on our financing, capital markets, advisory services and sales and trading businesses,” Asia-Pacific Chief Executive Werner Steinmueller said in a memo to staff.
One senior banker, still in a job, questioned how well the slimmed down franchise could compete.
“Will clients stick with us or is the game over?”