John Cryan. Picture: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN
John Cryan. Picture: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN

New York — Deutsche Bank is considering candidates to potentially replace CEO John Cryan amid heightened tensions between him and supervisory board chair Paul Achleitner, the Times of London reported without saying where it got the information.

The bank approached Richard Gnodde, the head of Goldman Sachs’s international operations, but he’s thought to have spurned the overture, the newspaper said. Deutsche Bank also considered UniCredit CEO Jean Pierre Mustier and Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters, according to the report.

"Cryan may be a good person, but he’s not the right guy on top of Deutsche Bank," Stefan Mueller, CEO of the German Institute for Asset and Equity Allocation and Valuation, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. Still, "I think the main problem at Deutsche Bank is Paul Achleitner, he implemented all these CEOs in the last years".

Disagreement between Cryan and Achleitner has flared over strategy, with the CEO and chief financial officer James von Moltke pushing for a more radical restructuring of businesses, including the investment bank, the newspaper cited a senior source as saying. Cryan also irked Achleitner last year by avoiding a meeting with one of the company’s top shareholders, HNA Group, the Wall Street Journal reported in October. The Chinese government has since pushed the indebted conglomerate to unwind an acquisition binge.

Deutsche Bank spokesperson Monika Schaller declined to comment on the Times’s report. The newspaper said Goldman Sachs also declined to comment.

Sustained slide

Deutsche Bank shares rose 3.1% at 9.05am in Frankfurt trading, paring losses this year to 27%.

Last March, Cryan laid out the Frankfurt-based firm’s third strategy revamp in as many years, pledging to return to "controlled growth". A sustained slide at the investment bank has since contributed to hundreds of job cuts to curb costs and improve returns. Trading at the unit, headed by Marcus Schenck and Garth Ritchie, slumped 27% in the fourth quarter, while fees from advising on deals and arranging debt and equity sales slipped 3%.

Von Moltke spotlighted current challenges at the division at an investor conference last week. These include the euro’s gain against the dollar, which may reduce the unit’s revenue by about €300m this quarter from a year earlier, he said.

Schenck is also viewed internally as a strong candidate, the Times cited one former executive as saying. At an event hosted by Bloomberg in London last week, Schenck said the lender still has some work to do to convince shareholders that its turnaround is on track.

"John has always made it very clear — look, this is not a one-quarter journey. This is a several-year journey," Schenck said of Cryan. "We think we’re on the right path with that journey. But we definitely are a show-me case."

• With assistance from Nicholas Comfort

Bloomberg