Deutsche Bank axes whole teams in Asia-Pacific as 18,000 global job cuts begin

A Deutsche Bank logo adorns a wall at the company's headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, June 9, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

SYDNEY/HONG KONG - Deutsche Bank shares rose on Monday as it launched one of the biggest overhauls of its investment bank since the financial crisis by cutting 18,000 jobs around the world, starting the day with cuts in Asia.

The lender announced the job losses on Sunday as part of a restructuring plan that will cost 7.4 billion euros (S$11.3 billion) and see it undo years of work that had aimed to make its investment bank a major force on Wall Street.

As part of the overhaul, the bank will scrap its global equities business and cut some operations in its fixed income, an area traditionally regarded as one of its strengths.

Shares in Deutsche Bank were up 4.7 per cent in Frankfurt at 0625 GMT, according to data from brokerage Lang & Schwarz.

Deutsche Bank gave no geographic breakdown for the job cuts, though the bulk are widely expected to fall in Europe and the United States. The global working day on Monday began with cuts in Sydney, Hong Kong and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific.

Bankers seen leaving Deutsche Bank's Sydney office on Monday said they had been laid off, but declined to be identified as they were due to return later to sign redundancy packages.

One person with knowledge of the bank's Australia operations said its four-strong equity capital markets (ECM) team was also being disbanded. But the person also said most of its mergers and acquisitions (M&A) team was not immediately affected.

Entire teams in sales and trading were losing their jobs too, according to several Deutsche bankers.

Regionally, Deutsche used to rank among the top 10 banks in league tables for ECM deals, but it 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 per cent to 15 per cent 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 individually to meetings. He said that, after chats with human resources managers, "they give you this packet and you are out of the building."

'RESTART'

Several workers left offices holding large envelopes with the bank's logo. Three employees took a picture of themselves beside a large Deutsche Bank logo outside and hugged each other before hailing a taxi.

"If you have a job for me please let me know. But do not ask questions," said a person who confirmed he was employed at Deutsche Bank. He declined to comment further.

A Deutsche Bank spokeswoman declined to comment on specific departures, saying the bank would be communicate directly with employees and would be "as responsible and sensitive as possible implementing these changes."

Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing said on Sunday that it was the most fundamental transformation of the bank in decades. "This is a restart," he said.

CEO Christian Sewing delivers a speech during the annual shareholder meeting of Germany's largest business bank, Deutsche Bank, in Frankfurt, Germany, May 23, 2019.
Photo: Reuters

"We are creating a bank that will be more profitable, leaner, more innovative and more resilient," he wrote to staff.

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 had 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 on Monday that was seen by Reuters.

One senior banker, who still had his job, said the bank was not giving up on deals it was working on but questioned how well its slimmed down franchise could compete in future.

"The biggest question for us is where do we go from here if we don't offer the whole suite of products. Will clients stick with us or is the game over?" he said.

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