Deutsche Bank’s strategy for its all-important fixed income currencies and commodities (FICC) business, is simple. While banks like Barclays and Morgan Stanley are pulling back from FICC, Deutsche isn’t. Deutsche plans to stand firm in the FICC markets It’s already strong in (EMEA) and to expand in the markets it isn’t (the U.S.). Back in May, Deutsche announced plans to hire in the U.S. market. Several big-name recruits have already been announced.
Suddenly, however, Deutsche’s U.S. FICC expansion looks shaky. That shakiness has implications for the bank’s strategy as a whole. And it has implications for co-CEO Anshu Jain, who conceived it.
This instability is attributable to yesterday’s revelations that Deutsche has issues with its regulatory reporting in the U.S. Thanks to data entry errors and omissions such as failing to take the cost of collateral into consideration when booking loans, the accounts for Deutsche’s US business are suffering from a, “systemic breakdown,” in the words of the New York Fed. Nor is this a new problem: it was reportedly first highlighted in 2002 and Deutsche has been trying to get to grips with it through increased controls spending since 2010.
The regulatory reporting travails are an issue because if the Fed doubts the validity of Deutsche’s asset valuations and the strength of its controls, the Wall Street Journal says it may ask for higher capital to be held against the U.S. business. This would jeopardize Deutsche’s U.S. FICC growth plans and by extension the bank’s entire FICC strategy along with its entire plan for the future says the WSJ. - Expansion in FICC is a key pillar of Deutsche’s attempt to achieve a 12% return on equity by 2016.
Co-CEO Anshu Jain is looking vulnerable as a result. The reporting errors at the U.S. unit, which accounts for around 25% of Deutsche’s total balance sheet, could yet force the bank to raise capital again. More capital raisings would reflect badly on Jain, who raised €8bn in equity this year, having promised that the additional €3bn he raised last year would be sufficient. Shareholders are becoming restless. Deutsche now has until 2015 to put its books in order. It’s hiring 500 additional US compliance and control staff. Deutsche’s FICC bankers had better to listen to them – their future depends upon it.
Separately, what do you call an anti-materialist who extols the virtue of living simply and says the West has lost is way? - How about an MD at Deutsche Bank? Bilal Hafeez, a Deutsche MD and head of FX research, has written a column for the Financial Times claiming that as America has become more wealthy, Americans have lost their quality of life. Hafeez says that America is, “the richest civilisation that has ever existed, yet one in which free time is both scarce and difficult to fill.” America’s central tenet is that, “making money is one of life’s deepest purposes,” he adds. But this has led to a kind of spiritual bankruptcy. On average, American only have eight days’ holiday a year. And when they’re not working they’re mostly watching crass TV shows. Is this what life’s really about? “Americans should also ask some fundamental questions about the worth of their wealth,” says Hafeez. Some might say that’s rich coming from a senior banker.
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