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A branch of Deutsche Bank in Cologne, Germany. Picture: REUTERS
A branch of Deutsche Bank in Cologne, Germany. Picture: REUTERS

Hong Kong — Whole teams were told on Monday their jobs had been axed as Deutsche Bank began 18,000 job cuts globally in one of the biggest overhauls to an investment bank since the aftermath of the financial crisis.

The German bank began telling staff of the layoffs in Sydney, then across the region, taking in its Hong Kong and Singapore trading hubs before bankers in Europe and the US reached their offices to be told their fates.

The following are comments by employees leaving the bank, as well as from those who have been told their jobs are safe.

“I was terminated this morning. There was a very quick meeting and that was it,” said an IT worker leaving Deutsche Bank’s City of London office on Monday morning.

“I got laid off, where else would I go?” said one equity sales staff member in London, who had headed to nearby pub.

“The day started with a phone call and a meeting with human resources [HR]. We were informed that our jobs have become redundant and handed over our letters and given approximately a month’s salary and have been asked to leave. Our systems have been taken and we can’t log in and have been asked to vacate the premises,” said a Bengaluru-based banker.

“With these kind of cuts in the equities business, you can’t avoid an impact on the investment bank. All the clients here were already asking questions about the changes, and now they will ask questions about the ability to provide truly bespoke service. And it’s not like they don’t have any options in the market,” said a senior Hong Kong-based equity capital markets banker, who added he was surprised by the scale of cuts.

“There is hardly any work getting done today and folks are just mailing or calling friends or headhunters. Half of the floor is gone and others are just waiting to be called in. Some people are saying their byes even before being called in,” said an equities trader in Hong Kong who has spent two years at the bank. The trader said he and his colleagues had been escorted from their meetings with HR to the elevators without being allowed to return to their desks.

“We are still what we were on Friday but with a much, much smaller equities capability,” said one senior Sydney-based bank executive, who kept his job.

“It's good that the uncertainty has finally ended. I was preparing myself and my family since the Commerzbank talks failed. The equities market is not that great so I may not find a similar job, but I have to deal with it. Frankly, I was not expecting they will cut the entire equities piece,” said an equity sales banker in Hong Kong as two colleagues came to hug him and see him off from the main building lobby. The banker had been with Deutsche for six years.

“The news is obviously depressing but at least there’s some clarity on the businesses we are still going to focus on. My access card is working fine. So I am safe for now. What happens tomorrow, who knows but for now, I hope this is it,” said a banker in Singapore as he tapped his card to gain access to the lift.

“The mood inside is pretty gloomy. People are being called in individually into the conference rooms with a couple of rounds of chats with HR, who will give you this packet then and you are out of the building. Even those who are staying back don’t think it’s the turning point for the bank. Who wants to go into a bad bank just to wind down the businesses? So more people will leave when they get the opportunity.

“Personally, I think they [management] have taken a very shortsighted decision. Equities is a cyclical business and it’s not like DB was the only bank not making any money in this,” said one equities trader who had worked at Deutsche Bank for six years.

“Our equity capital markets business has to be scaled back but it’s not like everything will happen in one day. This is not like what StanChart did to its equities business. We are not going to be giving up our live deals. But 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?” said a Singapore banker who remains in his job.

“If you have a job for me, please let me know. But do not ask questions,” said a banker in Hong Kong who confirmed he had been employed at Deutsche Bank, but declined to comment further.

“It is very frustrating because they got rid of the whole of the equities business that supports us in corporate finance. But it’s part of the industry, equities businesses have been challenged everywhere. We need to stop and think now what our business model is without an equities business. Is it strategic advice? Or is it leveraged financing? It seems to me that’s the natural direction now,” said a senior Australian corporate finance banker.


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