May 23, 2019
By Matt Scuffham
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank is planning cuts at its U.S. equities business, including prime brokerage and equity derivatives, to win over shareholders unhappy about its performance, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing told shareholders at the bank’s annual meeting on Thursday it was prepared to make “tough cutbacks” at its investment bank. Sewing is battling to convince them he can turn around Germany’s biggest lender, whose shares have reached a record low.
The bulk of the anticipated U.S. cuts will come from its money-losing equities business, which includes cash equities trading. Other areas of the business, including U.S. rates trading, have been earmarked for further reductions, they said.
It is unclear how many of the bank’s 9,275 U.S. employees will be affected and no final decisions have been made, the sources said.
Deutsche Bank declined to comment.
Sewing did not name which parts of the business will be cut or when the changes will happen when addressing shareholders on Thursday. However, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that job cut announcements are not imminent.
The future of the bank’s U.S. trading and investment banking operations has been in question for months, with some shareholders calling for further cuts on top of those announced last year.
The bank had previously denied reports it planned a further U.S. restructuring, saying in a memo to staff last month that it was “firmly committed” to its U.S. franchise.
However, the collapse of merger talks with German rival Commerzbank AG last month led senior management to intensify discussions over a “Plan B” for turning around the business, the sources said. U.S. cuts were high on the agenda, the sources said.
Last year, Deutsche Bank said it would reduce its global headcount to below 90,000 from 97,000. That incorporated a 25% cut in equities sales and trading jobs, including a significant number in New York. However, it has continued to lag competitors in performance.
Shares in Deutsche Bank have fallen by 40% during Sewing’s 13-month tenure as CEO, in part reflecting concerns over the poor performance of its investment bank.
The business last year eked out a slender 1% return on equity, an important profitability yardstick, trailing the 16% at JPMorgan Chase’s investment bank.
Adding to scrutiny on the U.S. business is the outcome of the Federal Reserve’s annual stress test, which regulatory sources anticipate will be announced by the end of June. Deutsche Bank flunked the test in 2015, 2016 and 2018. A repeat would cause a bigger dent in confidence among customers and business partners.
European regulators have said they fear the bank could fail the U.S. test. Even if it passes, conditions could be placed restricting how the business can operate.
After the 2007-2009 financial crisis, Deutsche maintained a large presence on Wall Street, even as European rivals like Credit Suisse made big cuts.
The business has brought in around half of Deutsche Bank’s overall investment banking revenue, which includes corporate and investment banking as well as trading. However, encumbered by litigation and regulatory investigations, the business has struggled to compete with Wall Street rivals.
(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Edited by Neal Templin and Richard Chang)