A road cleaning machine drives past the exterior of a Deutsche Bank AG bank branch in Berlin, Germany. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Deutsche Bank Under Pressure to Resolve CEO Fate as Board Meets

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(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Bank AG Chairman Paul Achleitner is facing intense pressure to clarify the future of Chief Executive Officer John Cryan within days, according to a person familiar with the inside workings of the bank.

Supervisory board members will discuss the situation in an “update call” scheduled by Achleitner for Sunday evening, said two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the plan isn’t public. Deutsche Bank wasn’t immediately available to comment. Handelsblatt reported the planned call earlier on Saturday.

Achleitner has been talking with possible successors and hasn’t publicly given any indications of his intentions after weeks of speculation. With frustration mounting inside the bank and among shareholders, his options to fill the leadership vacuum are narrowing, said the first person, who asked not to be named discussing private matters.

The chairman is expected to either back Cryan or announce a likely succession plan by the middle of next week, the person said. Chief Financial Officer James von Moltke and Deputy CEOs Marcus Schenck and Christian Sewing are the leading internal contenders for the post, but it’s also possible that Achleitner could pick a surprise external candidate, the person said.

At stake is the future direction of Germany’s biggest lender. At the heart of the internal struggle are questions about its U.S. investment banking operations and how big a role they should have within the broader company in the future. Cryan has embarked on a review of the activities with a view to scaling them back, while Achleitner still sees the U.S. as critical to the global investment banking model.

“Sentiment matters and confidence matters,” said Davide Serra, CEO of Algebris Investments. “They’re playing with fire by having a public fight between CEO and chairman. It’s just the wrong way to manage an institution.”

Approaching Candidates

Deutsche Bank and its backers have been casting a wide net to find a potential replacement for Cryan, with little apparent success so far. Media reports have pointed to candidates from UniCredit SpA CEO Jean Pierre Mustier, 57, to Standard Chartered Plc CEO Bill Winters, 56.

In the meantime, a top investor in the lender and recruiters in recent weeks have separately reached out to Bank of America Corp.’s Christian Meissner and ex-JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive Matt Zames, according to people familiar with the matter.

Neither have signaled interest in the role, the people said. Discussions Achleitner held with other candidates earlier this year also didn’t lead to an offer for the post, people familiar have said.

Reports of the search have weighed on Deutsche Bank’s stock and laid bare tensions between Cryan, who’s repeatedly said that he’s committed to the role, and Achleitner, who hasn’t backed the Briton publicly since news of the search broke. Cryan has been unable to restore revenue growth at the bank after reducing risk, settling legacy misconduct cases and raising fresh capital. Achleitner, too, has come under fire from investors for having failed to forge a recovery after going through three CEOs in six years.

The shares fell 2.6 percent in Frankfurt trading on Friday, bringing this year’s drop to 28 percent.

Some Favored

Meissner and Zames are both viewed favorably by at least one major shareholder, people familiar with the situation said. Before joining Bank of America in 2010, Meissner, 49, ran Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s German investment-banking business. Like Achleitner, he’s originally from Austria and once worked at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where he rose through the ranks of Goldman’s equity capital markets business during a decade-long tenure.

Zames, 47, is a former hedge-fund trader who helped tidy up JPMorgan’s London Whale trading debacle. He had been seen as a possible successor to CEO Jamie Dimon after he was promoted to co-chief operating officer in 2012. He left JPMorgan as COO last year with the aim of running another company.

The two are among several individuals outside Europe who have been approached for the German bank’s top job, but the challenges facing the lender are limiting the pool of candidates, the people with knowledge of the discussions said.

Cryan, 57, took over the top job at Deutsche Bank in 2015, replacing Anshu Jain. Unlike his predecessor, he speaks German thanks to a spell in Munich in his late 20s, a skill that’s still important at the bank in order to connect with lawmakers and a domestic audience.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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