Summer is over and here at Deutsche Bank, it's back to work with a vengeance. After the uncertainties and cuts of the summer, we're all here ready to get out there and bring in business. Except. Except we can't. We're barely allowed to travel.
It's crazy. On one hand, management say they believe in generating revenue and they want folks to be out pitching business. On the other, they don't want us to travel. It simply cannot work. One of these two options has to give.
What they don't seem to appreciate is that front office folks are the ambassadors for the firm. If I tell a client that I cannot come to the office and discuss a transaction because the CEO made a promise on costs, guess what the client is going to think? They are going to think that I am not coming to the office in person because either Deutsche Bank or myself don't care about them. And - frankly - they would be right.
Never has the phrase, "penny-wise, pound foolish," been more apt. This decision by management simply reflects their lack of understanding of how the investment banking side of the business works. Instead of cutting travel costs like this, they should have positively incentivized the front office to be out pounding the pavements. If we want to increase revenues, we need to show that i) Deutsche Bank has good ideas and ii) that we are open for - and want - their business. Cutting travel does neither.
This is not to say that I approve of some of the frivolities of the past. The (ex)-colleague who spent £30k ($39k) on taxis was clearly beyond the boundaries of acceptability, but we should not all be made to suffer for the excesses of a few.
Eventually I have no doubt that this shoot yourself in the foot idea will be rolled back. In the meantime, I would like to offer a real suggestion for cutting costs: ban internal travel. Deutsche Bank is full of senior managers whom I would never dream of putting in front of a client, and who spend their time travelling between internal off-sites in London, New York, Singapore and Dubai. These are the real cost centers. They love their off-sites because they're the only chance they have to get out of the office. Firing one lazy but politically connected manager on a €3m a year package would go far further towards in saving money than cutting travel for people from the actual business.
Nor does it work, incidentally, to shunt us into economy. Here, we will simply spend hours in queues, which will cost the bank a fortune given our hourly pay.
I would respectfully suggest that neither Christian Sewing nor Frank the Tank nor James von Moltke have thought this through. If they're looking for a way to gently unwind the bank, the travel restrictions are it. They are not a way to achieve growth.
Brian Ortiz is the pseudonym of a managing director in Deutsche's investment banking division