Deutsche Bank’s top management will receive no bonuses for 2015, after the bank fell to a €6.8bn loss for the year and admitted that it could not rule out more red numbers in 2016.
In a wide-ranging press conference in which Jürgen Fitschen, Deutsche’s co-chief executive, warned that there would “only be losers” in the event of Brexit, his counterpart John Cryan said the bank’s supervisory board, led by chairman Paul Achleitner, had cancelled bonuses for management board members because they had “to own” the bank’s poor performance.
“Although no one wants to contribute to leading a company when the cost of joining the management board is a diminution in possible compensation, in the context of the overall performance of the bank last year . . . that’s a decision which I respect,” Mr Cryan said.
The 55-year-old Briton added that the non-payout, the first since 2008, would apply to people like him who had joined the board in the course of the year, as well as others who had left, such as his predecessor, Anshu Jain.
However, he added that the removal of bonuses for the management board was not “a long-term strategy”. “It cannot be the case that board members are structurally disadvantaged by serving on the board,” he said.
In a characteristically blunt assessment of the bank’s results, which were marred by €12bn in writedowns, litigation charges and restructuring costs, Mr Cryan also confirmed that the bank’s overall bonus pool for 2015 would be cut “a fair bit” as “a matter of justice”.
“It would be inappropriate vis-à-vis society to post €5.2bn in legal provisions in one year and not reflect that in compensation, particularly when the share price has fallen, and shareholders have suffered,” he said. “By and large, I think we are underpaying against our international peer group this year and I hope that many staff understand why.”
As part of the €6.8bn annual net loss, Deutsche confirmed a €2.1bn net loss in the final three months of the year, as it suffered what Andrew Coombs, an analyst at Citi, described as an “alarming” slide in revenues.
The worst performer in the quarter was Deutsche’s key investment banking unit, where a 30 per cent drop in revenues combined with an increase in costs to produce a €1.15bn pre-tax loss. However, Deutsche’s retail bank, which Mr Cryan is also radically restructuring as part of a five-year plan to turn round the lender’s fortunes, also posted a €675m pre-tax loss.
Deutsche’s share price, which has been hard hit by the bank’s woes fell a further 4.6 per cent on Thursday, but Mr Cryan said he did not think that the bank would become a takeover target, in part because regulators were wary of big transactions. “We shouldn’t seek to manage the share price, we should manage the bank,” he added, arguing that a successful implementation of the new strategy would bolster the shares.
Nonetheless, Deutsche’s top brass conceded that the next 12 months would not be easy, in part because they expected 2016 to be the “peak” of the restructuring process.
The bank also faces external challenges, ranging from low interest rates and concerns over the health of the global economy, to unpredictable risks such as the possibility of Britain choosing to leave the EU, which Mr Fitschen said would hurt Britain, Germany and the EU.
“Politically, there will only be losers . . . Germany would lose its central position, England will be reduced to little England, as Scotland won’t stay, the French-German relationship will become more tense, and as a result Europe will lose its dynamism,” he warned.
“What does it mean for Deutsche Bank? We don’t know. Some might dream of Frankfurt, Paris and Luxembourg benefiting from that, but we don’t know. We’re thinking about this topic, without becoming hectic about it. We hope that reason will win out in the end.”
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