Deutsche Bank. Picture: REUTERS
Deutsche Bank. Picture: REUTERS

Sydney/Hong Kong — Deutsche Bank eliminated whole teams at its Asian operations on Monday, as the German lender began axing 18,000 jobs globally in one of the biggest overhauls at an investment bank since the aftermath of the financial crisis.

The lender announced the job losses on Sunday as part of a restructuring plan that will ultimately cost €7.4bn and see it undo years of work aimed at making 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.

Deutsche Bank gave no geographic breakdown for the job cuts, though the bulk are widely expected to fall in Europe and the US. The global day on Monday, however, 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 is being disbanded. The person also said most of its mergers and acquisitions (M&A) team is not affected.

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

Regionally, Deutsche used to regularly rank among the top 10 banks in league tables for ECM deals, but it has slipped in recent years, hitting 17th in 2018 and 18th in 2019, Refinitiv data showed. So far this year, it ranks eighth regionally for M&As.

Deutsche had about 4,700 staff at its main regional offices in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore, factsheets on its website show.

Its investment banking team for the Asia-Pacific region numbered about 300 people before the cuts, of which 10%-15% will be laid off, almost all in its equity capital markets division, according to a senior Asia banker with direct knowledge of the plans.

One Hong Kong-based equities trader who had been laid off said the mood is “pretty gloomy” as people were called individually to meetings.

Large envelopes

“[There are a] couple of rounds of chats with HR and then they give you this packet and you are out of the building,” the trader said.

Several workers were seen leaving the 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, but declined to comment further.

A Deutsche Bank spokesperson declined to comment on specific departures, saying the bank will be communicating directly with employees.

“We understand these changes affect people’s lives profoundly and we will do whatever we can to be as responsible and sensitive as possible implementing these changes,” she said.

Restart

CEO Christian Sewing, who now aims to focus on the bank’s more stable revenue streams, said on Sunday that it is the most fundamental transformation of the bank in decades. “This is a restart,” he said.

“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 a value of €74bn of risk-weighted assets.

Sewing will now represent the investment bank on the board in a shift that illustrates the division’s waning influence.

The CEO had flagged extensive restructuring in May when he promised shareholders “tough cutbacks” to the investment bank. This followed Deutsche’s failure to agree a merger with rival Commerzbank.

On Monday Werner Steinmueller, the bank’s Asia-Pacific CEO told staff in a memo, seen by Reuters, that the bank is focusing on its core strengths.

“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,” he said.

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

“Our ECM business has to be scaled back but it’s not like everything will happen in one day,” he said. “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?”

Reuters