| 15.5°C Dublin

Josef Ackermann ends turbulent decade at Deutsche Bank

DEUTSCHE Bank chief Josef Ackermann officially stepped down on Thursday, ending a decade-long reign as head of Germany's biggest bank during which he repeatedly courted controversy.

At the end of Deutsche Bank's annual shareholder meeting at Frankfurt's huge Messehalle exhibition hall, Swiss-born Ackermann, 64, hands over the reins to his two successors, Anshu Jain and Juergen Fitschen.

"It is a very special day for me, a day with a touch of sadness, but above all with pleasure," Ackermann said.

The outgoing chief executive insisted Deutsche Bank was "even stronger and more stable than it already was" and he said he was pleased to be able to "hand over this bank in such outstanding shape to my successors."

While for many Germans, Ackermann personifies the arrogance and greed of the banking sector, he is widely respected in financial sectors for transforming Deutsche Bank into a truly global player during his 10 years in office.

In addition, Ackermann successfully steered his bank through the 2008 global economic and financial crisis without any major mishaps when he also acted as unofficial advisor to Chancellor Angela Merkel and her then finance minister Peer Steinbrueck.

With the eurozone crisis showing no signs of abating, the challenges facing Deutsche Bank, like the rest of the banking sector, are daunting.

So it can hardly come as a surprise that Mr Ackermann is being succeeded not just by one, but two chief executives.

Jain, a 49-year-old British citizen of Indian origin, and the 63-year-old German Fitschen will press ahead with the internationalisation of Deutsche Bank without ignoring German sensibilities. They will also have to reassure shareholders, customers and markets.

The backgrounds and personalities of the two men reflect those very different challenges facing the bank.

Jain is a high-flying investment banker from London and, with no spoken German, very much personifies the international or "Anglo-Saxon" way of doing business.

Fitschen, for his part, with his intimate knowledge of the German corridors of power will be responsible for reassuring and maintaining the confidence of the bank's major domestic clients.

Together with Deutsche Bank's new supervisory board chief Paul Achleitner - former chief financial officer of insurance giant Allianz - the new leadership have much to do to polish up the group's image.

Its reputation has become somewhat sullied in recent years by a string of different legal battles, but also perceptions that some of its areas of activity - such as foodstuffs speculation and business ties with makers of cluster munitions - were not always ethically acceptable.

But Ackermann reassured shareholders that Deutsche Bank had since "terminated our business relations with companies who - even indirectly - are involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions.

"We are also very carefully investigating accusations that our operations contribute to hunger around the world. Should this be confirmed, we will draw the appropriate consequences here too. As a precautionary measure we have already decided for the time being not to issue any new exchange-traded investment products based on basic foodstuffs," he said.

Observers appear to believe the new joint chiefs are up to the job.

"Here in Germany, Fitschen has an excellent reputation. He will do everything so that Deutsche Bank fulfils its role as financier of the German economy. In tandem with Jain, they should make a good team," said the head of the DIHK federation of German chambers of commerce, Hans Heinrich Driftmann.

The Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph