Deutsche Bank CFO's merciless language on layoffs

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Deutsche Bank CFO's merciless language on layoffs

The glide path

If you're looking for a sympathetic description of job cuts, the chief financial officer (CFO) of a large bank, is probably not be the best person to provide it. By their nature CFOs think in terms of costs; a human and a dollar or euro sign can easily become conflated.

James von Moltke, CFO at Deutsche Bank, seems to have submitted to this way of thinking. In an interview with the Financial Times to mark the first anniversary of Deutsche's decision to dispense with its equities sales and trading business, von Moltke says Deutsche has got over the "hiatus" inflicted by the coronavirus on its planned job cuts. “The glide path is something like a thousand heads a quarter,” said Von Moltke of Deutsche's fulfilment of its plan to eliminate 18,000 jobs by the end of 2022. 

Talk of a head cutting glide path may be entirely pragmatic if you're Von Moltke and are used to addressing investors rather than employees, but it stands in contrast to some of the more empathetic language on display elsewhere during the crisis. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's May letter to employees, in which he addressed them as friends and lamented the pain caused to their families by his job cuts, is a masterclass in the genre. Morgan Stanley's James Gorman was similarly sympathetic in April, when he referred to individual experiences and described conserving jobs in a "once in a hundred year health crisis" as "one of easiest decisions I ever made." Even Deutsche's CEO Christian Sewing professed his intention of avoiding "additional emotional distress," when he declared the hiatus to DB's job cuts in March.

Von Moltke may not be as sterile as the FT suggests. - DB insiders say he's an empathetic person who also acknowledged the human impact of the cuts, but that this didn't make it into the article. Nonetheless, his  language suggests the sudden outbreak of sympathy in banking has now been replaced by the more pragmatic need to get cuts done. Given the layoffs had already been announced and he's simply confirming their impending reality, it might be considered refreshing. However, if you're one of the Deutsche Bank staff due to be let go, being part of a 'glide path of heads' might sound deceptively brutal.

The good news is that Von Moltke didn't announce any additional cuts. The Financial Times notes that DB was supposed to cut 4,000 people this year, but that only 1,000 went in the first quarter when the glide path was functioning as it should. Thereafter there was a "plateau," said Von Moltke.  “I can’t tell you as I sit here today if we can compensate for the slowdown [in cutting heads]” during the second half of 2020, he added, before offering reassurances that Deutsche will very certainly make up for the delay by lopping heads more speedily in the next 24 months.

Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash

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