Deutsche Bank's bonus week brings apprehension

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Deutsche Bank bonuses 2019

This is the week. Sometime in the next few days - probably on Wednesday - Deutsche Bank will divulge its first ever bonuses under CEO Christian Sewing. The only real question is how low Sewing will go.

Deutsche's CEO and his CFO have been mixing their messages when it comes to the coming compensation round. Way back in July 2018, James von Moltke promised Deutsche staff that bonuses for 2018 were being accrued at the same rate as bonuses for 2017. - And a few unhappy people aside, Deutsche Bank's 2017 bonuses actually weren't bad as the bank tried to make amends for paying almost no bonuses the previous year. The implication, then, was that people at DB would be happy this year.

More recently, however, von Moltke and Sewing have been making distinctly different noises about their propensity for paying generously. Last month, Von Moltke told fixed income investors that he was ready to cut bonuses if revenue growth isn't forthcoming. It wasn't clear if Von Moltke was referring to 2018 or 2019, but given this year has begun badly, who's to stay he wasn't referrring to both? 

Von Moltke's comments followed reports in January from unnamed 'senior insiders' at Deutsche to the effect that the bank's bonus pool was down 10% to 15%. Both have helped fuel febrile rumours to the effect that managing directors at Deutsche will be stiffed to pay analysts and associates, that last year's big hires sucked dry the bonus pool with guarantees, that equities bonuses will be particularly dimunitive, or that global head of equities Peter Selman has personally intervened to ensure his people are at least paid a bit.

All or none of this may be true. All will, however, become clear in two days' time. Until then, Deutsche Bank is declining to comment.

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