"I went on holiday at Deutsche Bank. When I came back, my co-head had told everyone I'd left"

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Earlier this week, insiders at Deutsche Bank told us they were having problems booking their summer holidays at the German bank. - In a case of unfortunate timing, DB was transitioning from one HR system to another and during the resulting downtime there was a hiatus on vacation planning for some people in some divisions just as Deutsche announced its layoffs.

In retrospect, the challenges to holiday booking might turn out to be a good thing. Speaking off the record, one Deutsche MD who left the bank recently recalls that when he took a break during his tenure, things seem to have changed upon his return.

"I came back from a two week holiday and the guy who was my co-head had been telling everyone I'd left the bank," he tells us. "I was like, 'Hang on a minute,' and he just laughed it off."

This was over five years ago, when Deutsche was a lot rougher and readier than it is now. It was also when the German bank still had a lot of co-heads of desks and businesses, which was part of a deliberate strategy by then CEO-Anshu Jain to foster internal competition. "Deutsche's problem back then was the co-head structure," says the ex-MD. "It meant that everyone was competing against one another.

"The theory was creative tension - get internal teams to compete against each other with overlapping mandates. It was the kind of idea which works in a bull market but otherwise creates a closed and paranoid environment in which the business cannibalizes itself."

Kevin Rodgers, the former global head of FX at Deutsche Bank, who left in 2014, commented similarly on the historic competitiveness inside DB in an article last year. "The investment bank had been set up in a hurry post-1995. Its various departments had been assembled almost from scratch. Probably because of this, the culture of each was different," says Rodgers, adding that teams ended up working in "tribal silos."

The way that both Rodgers and the former DB MD tell it, it was this internal competitiveness that was much of Deutsche's problem. John Cryan went some way to eliminating it, but new CEO Christian Sewing will need to eradicate it once and for all. 

Sewing seems determined to do this. - In his recent letter to DB staff, Sewing stressed that the "fundamental rebuild" of the investment bank will have teamwork as one of its core values. However, one Deutsche MD in Frankfurt questioned whether the corporate banking division or the investment banking division will own relationships with German clients in future, and said this could be an area of conflict to come.

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