Deutsche Bank to lay off thousands

A worker leaves Deutsche Bank's London office. Hundreds of jobs were set to go there. Photo:...
A worker leaves Deutsche Bank's London office. Hundreds of jobs were set to go there. Photo: Reuters

Deutsche Bank has laid off staff from Sydney to New York as it slashes 18,000 jobs in a €7.4 billion ($NZ12.5 billion) "reinvention" that will lead to yet another annual loss, a plan that knocked its already battered shares.

Germany's largest lender said on Sunday it will scrap its global equities unit and cut some of fixed income operation in a retreat from a long-held ambition to make its struggling investment bank, with 38,000 staff, a force on Wall Street.

Deutsche Bank has almost 91,500 staff around the world.

Its shares erased early gains and closed down 5.4% in Frankfurt after its finance chief flagged "significant uncertainty" over breaking even in 2020. Its bonds also fell. US-listed shares dropped 5.8%.

Ratings agency Fitch said that the bank's future credit rating will depend on how successfully it executes the plan.

"The restructuring measures involve large staff cuts and significant leadership changes, which could disrupt the aim to improve core earnings," it said in a note published on Monday.

Hundreds of employees at the bank's Wall Street office were summoned to the building's cafeteria on Monday morning to learn their fates, sources within the bank told Reuters. During one-to-one meetings with management and human resources, they were told they were being laid off and informed of their severance terms, the sources said.

One employee outside Deutsche Bank's office told Reuters that staff in the bank's equity sales division had been preparing for the worst.

"People have been planning their next moves but it's a tough market," the worker said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another US employee, who was told this morning that he would be laid off, said staff had known for the past two weeks that cuts were likely.

Banks have been getting rid of jobs as they automated more equities trading functions, and that could mean fewer job opportunities, industry sources and head hunters say.

Mid-market investment banks may look to hire some individuals, they said. Hedge funds are an unlikely destination since they prefer to hire individuals that have worked at investment firms rather than banks, they added.

Deutsche Bank had been one of the few European banks to maintain a significant presence in the United States after the 2007-2009 financial crisis. However, it has struggled to compete with US rivals, hampered by regulatory investigations and litigation.

The United States had been seen as a likely focus of the cuts although the bank maintained it wants to keep a significant presence, in part to service European corporate clients doing business in the country. However, some shareholders have pushed for a full US retreat.

Deutsche Bank said it remained committed to the United States, its second-biggest market.

"We will retain a significant presence here and remain a close partner to our U.S. clients and to international institutions that want to access the U.S. market," it said in an emailed statement.

In London, where hundreds of job cuts were expected, Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing said he was "reinventing" the bank, which is expected to post a loss this year. That would put it in the red for four of the past five years after a series of damaging setbacks.

At Deutsche Bank's investment banking headquarters in London, where the bank employs 8000 people, several said they were leaving for the last time, though few were keen to talk.

"I was terminated this morning. There was a very quick meeting and that was it," said one information technology employee, who had been working on a project for more than two years.

The nearby Balls Brothers pub filled up with laid-off staff.

Bankers leaving Deutsche Bank's Sydney, Australia, office also said they had been fired but declined to be identified because they were returning later to sign severance packages.

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.

Rating agency Moody's said there were "significant challenges" to executing the plan swiftly, adding it would keep its negative outlook.

"It's a risky manoeuvre, but if it succeeds, it has the potential to bring the bank back on course," said a person close to one of the top 10 shareholders.

Founded in 1870, Deutsche Bank has long been a major source of finance and advice for German companies seeking to expand abroad or raise money through the bond or equity markets.

Big cuts to its investment bank reverse a decades-long expansion that began with its purchase of Morgan Grenfell in London in 1989 and continued a decade later with a takeover of Bankers Trust in the United States.

The investment bank generated about one-half of Deutsche Bank's revenues but is also volatile. CEO Sewing, who flagged the restructuring in May after a failed merger attempt with Commerzbank, wants to focus on more stable sources of revenue.

"We are creating a bank that will be more profitable, leaner, more innovative and more resilient," Sewing wrote in a note to staff on Sunday.

As part of the overhaul, Deutsche Bank will set up a so-called "bad bank" to wind down unwanted assets, with €74 billion of risk-weighted assets.

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