- By Region
Josef Ackermann ended his turbulent decade-long leadership of Deutsche Bank with a robust defence of his record, saying Germany’s flagship bank would have needed a state bailout in the crisis if he had not improved its profitability.
The Swiss chief executive was due to step down after Thursday’s annual shareholder meeting.
Anshu Jain, the Indian-born head of Deutsche’s investment bank, and Jürgen Fitschen, head of its regional operations, are taking over as co-chief executives on Friday.
The two long-serving lieutenants of Mr Ackermann were picked last year after a drawn-out succession process that caused deep divisions within the bank.
Mr Ackermann had favoured a role in the bank’s new leadership for Axel Weber, now chairman at UBS. Mr Ackermann tried unsuccessfully to have himself nominated as the bank’s supervisory board chairman.
Addressing shareholders in Frankfurt Mr Ackermann referred only briefly to the new co-chief executives, saying they could “continue the success story” of the bank.
He gave more public praise to Hugo Bänziger, the bank’s chief risk officer who was overlooked as a successor and is leaving.
“To me you were consistently the most important adviser, especially during the financial crisis,” Mr Ackermann said of Mr Bänziger.
Mr Jain and Mr Fitschen have been widely seen as a sensible but temporary compromise solution to head the bank, balancing Mr Jain’s value as the head of its most profitable operations with Mr Fitschen’s good network in Germany.
Mr Jain was handed a longer contract than the older Mr Fitschen.
Some shareholders were set to use the annual meeting to criticise Deutsche’s management of the succession and urge that Paul Achleitner, the bank’s incoming supervisory board chairman, carry out a wide-ranging board shake-up.
Mr Ackermann became one of the world’s best-known bankers in the last decade but was a controversial public figure in Germany for his staunch defence of Deutsche’s need to become more profitable.
He admitted that the bank’s profit target – a 25 per cent pre-tax return on equity – had been seen in Germany as a “sign of greed” but he said the bank had “pulled ahead of our competitors in terms of profitability”.
He added: “If we had not managed this, we would certainly not have come through the severe financial crisis without taxpayers’ money and this bank would look completely different to how it does today.”
He admitted that the bank had “from today’s perspective” risked its reputation and credibility during what he called “the years of excessive exuberance” before the financial crisis.
“The public’s view of certain transactions”, he said, “has changed dramatically over recent years. We must not forget that.”
Mr Ackermann warned about the global economy and said some eurozone countries showed “lack of will to carry out reforms”.
German companies were lowering their expectations “in what has been our previously very robust home market”.
Under Mr Ackermann, Deutsche cemented its international growth and derives 60 per cent of revenues outside Germany. The bank is Europe’s largest by assets.
Since the crisis it has shored up its domestic base with the purchase of Postbank, a big retail rival. Mr Ackermann said Deutsche ranked sixth in revenues among Europe’s retail banks.
He gave few further details of Deutsche’s attempts to sell most of its asset management operations, saying a sale remained an option “only if the price is right”.
Mr Jain and Mr Fitschen are expected to give more details of their strategy in coming days.