Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

A flag bearing the Deutsche Bank AG logo flies outside the German bank's New York offices on Wall Street on Oct. 7, 2016.

Mark Lennihan/The Canadian Press

Deutsche Bank AG’s merger talks with Commerzbank AG have put its 10,000 U.S. workers on edge, three employees told Reuters, with some concerned a deal could pressure Deutsche to further shrink or even dispose of its U.S. businesses.

The future of the bank’s U.S. trading and investment banking presence had already been in question, with some shareholders calling for further cuts on top of ones announced last year, and speculation has intensified following confirmation of the merger talks on Sunday.

The German government, which has a 15-per-cent stake in Commerzbank, is expected to retain a stake in the combined business if a deal materializes. Some employees fear that could pressure the bank to focus on its home market.

Story continues below advertisement

Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank go public on merger talks

Berlin backs Deutsche Bank merger despite risk of shortfall, sources say

Both banks have cautioned that the outcome of the talks remains uncertain, and the process could drag on for months. In the meantime, key employees could decamp to rival Wall Street banks and hedge funds, further weakening a business that has underperformed for years. Several executives have left the bank’s U.S. operations in recent months.

“We don’t know what’s going on. Everything is up in the air,” said one senior employee within the bank’s U.S. equity sales business, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Chief executive Christian Sewing reiterated in a memo to staff on Sunday that Deutsche aimed to remain a “global bank with a strong capital markets business,” and a source familiar with the matter said the merger would not change the bank’s commitment to a strong U.S. presence.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment on Wednesday.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, reportedly a proponent of the merger, has previously stressed the need for Germany’s banking sector to support German companies who want to go abroad to export.

After the 2007-2009 financial crisis, Deutsche maintained a large presence on Wall Street, even as European rivals like Credit Suisse Group AG made big cuts to U.S. investment banking operations.

Deutsche Bank’s U.S. business has brought in around half of revenue for its overall investment banking unit, which includes corporate and investment banking as well as trading, even though it came with a relatively high cost of capital.

Story continues below advertisement

However, encumbered by litigation and regulatory investigations into past misconduct, the business has struggled to compete with Wall Street rivals.

Deutsche had said last May that it would reduce its global head count to well below 90,000 from 97,000. That included a 25-per-cent cut in equities sales and trading jobs, a significant number of which were in New York, where it has lagged rivals.

Cutting more jobs in the United States would not provoke the same political pushback that the two banks would face if they axe jobs in Germany, banking analysts say.

PAY CONCERNS

Even if Deutsche Bank keeps its U.S. operations largely intact following a Commerzbank deal, some staff fear pay and bonuses would decline because the combined entity would face a backlash from German taxpayers if its remuneration was seen as excessive.

Commerzbank, which is focused on personal and commercial lending, typically pays its staff less than Deutsche Bank. If the German government were to retain a stake in a combined entity, lawmakers would likely argue that it should keep a tight rein on pay.

Traders at Deutsche Bank’s U.S. equities business have already felt a squeeze, with some receiving substantially smaller bonuses for 2018, the sources said.

Story continues below advertisement

That has contributed to a decline in morale, which has been exacerbated by the departure of senior staff including Brad Kurtzman, co-head of equities trading in the Americas, who is leaving at the end of this month, the sources said.

A recent focus on recruiting college graduates, held up by senior management as an affirmation of the bank’s long-term commitment to the trading division, has done little to quell concern, they added.

One employee, who asked not to be named, said further defections are considered likely as staff look to pre-empt further cuts should the Commerzbank deal go through.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies