Today was Deutsche Bank’s annual shareholder meeting. Things didn’t go too badly. There was some criticism of the chairman, Paul Achleitner, but someone gave CEO John Cryan a book and Cryan said the bank should be profitable from 2018. That’s good, because you probably don’t want to mess with the senior staff at Deutsche Bank: they are being trained by a former commander of U.S. special forces.
Deutsche insiders say the bank has been regularly dispatching senior staff from its investment bank for training at the McChrystal Group, run by Stanley McChrystal, a former U.S. general who led the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and was top Commander of American forces in Afghanistan.
McChrystal employs various former senior forces personnel to help imbue civilian managers with organizational insights learned on the battlefield.
Deutsche declined to comment on the training programme, which we understand has been quietly going on for several years, but was initially restricted to the equities business before being rolled out to fixed income over the past 12 months. Groups of Deutsche executives are understood to visit the McChrystal office regularly and McChrystal was reportedly invited to talk to Deutsche’s senior executives about, ‘the need for strong communication, teamwork among business divisions and focus during periods of stress,’ in January.
While McChrystal himself wakes up at 4am every morning to undertake a workout that includes ’60 flutter-kicks,’ the Deutsche two-day training programme is classroom based and less about exercise than communication and leadership. “The whole idea is that in the military, there’s no excuse for failing to communicate and lead because people’s lives are at stake,” says one Deutsche insider with knowledge of the course. “It’s impressive,” she adds.
McChrystal outlines his leadership ethos in a book and various articles. Among other things, he aims to build a “shared consciousness” with the aim of creating a “synchronized organization.” In Iraq, McChrystal reportedly achieved this within the U.S. army by holding an, ‘organization-wide 90-minute meeting every single day, sharing updates and lessons learned from around the globe with over 7,000 people,’ suggesting that Deutsche Bank employees could be in for a lot of town halls.
McChrystal articulates his broader purpose as, “scaling the agility of small teams to the organizational level and connecting normally siloed groups.” In the army, he says he embedded “elite operators” from one team into another in order to create a “culture of collaboration” and, “forge bonds of trust.” Under McChrystal’s programme, Deutsche’s MDs are also expected to uber-communicators: “You have to be the force that pumps information, drives communication, and maintains the culture across your teams,” he writes.