Do you work for Deutsche Bank? Are you among the 61% of Deutsche Bank staff unhappy with last year’s (absent) bonus? Did you receive the DB retention bonus which is on track to be worth nothing at all? Do you want to do something about this?
Resign. And then be bought back.
Headhunters say Deutsche does have money to spend on its existing staff (alongside alleged guarantees for new hires), it’s just being very careful about how it spends it. If someone strategically important resigns for a role elsewhere, Deutsche has been known to better the new offer and maybe make a promotion along with it. In this way we understand that exits have been thwarted.
Nowhere is Deutsche’s need for sticky staff greater than in its U.S. investment banking business. The German bank has repeatedly declared its intention of “deepening” its relationships in M&A and equity capital markets this year and is making North America a priority. At the end of last week, Deutsche ranked 15th for U.S. M&A, down from 14th last year, from 10th in 2015 and from eighth three years ago. The trend is clear, and it’s moving in the wrong direction.
Deutsche declined to comment for this article, but buybacks or not, insiders say Deutsche’s whole U.S. investment banking business has been losing senior staff. Exits so far this year include Craig Molson, a senior leveraged finance banker who left for Barclays in March, Marc Habert, the head of restructuring who went to RBC, Greg Rinsky and Michael Siano from Deutsche’s gaming and healthcare banking groups respectively, who went to Houlihan Lokey, Marc Cohen, who also went to RBC, Lee Counselman, a senior software banker who went to Moelis, plus a handful of other exits from associate to director level.
Deutsche has also been hiring to bolster its U.S. M&A operation. U.S. recruits this year include Adora Whitaker, a managing director in FIG from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Philip Pucciarelli and Robert Verdier from BMO Capital Markets for healthcare, along with Glenn Rewick for healthcare from UBS. They follow at least seven managing director or director level hires for the U.S. M&A business in the final months of last year.
Rather than new hires, what Deutsche’s U.S. investment banking business really needs though, is stability. Deutsche has been investing in the U.S. for years but has little to show for it, possibly because the people it recruits have a tendency to leave again two or three years later. The U.S. healthcare team is a case in point. In 2014 Deutsche appointed two new co-heads of healthcare from Morgan Stanley; a year later they left for J.P. Morgan. Twelve months on, Deutsche’s new-new heads of healthcare (one of whom had been hired from Goldman Sachs four years earlier) quit for Barclays.
This matters, because M&A bankers are like a ripe cheese. They don’t reach maturity overnight. As Andrea Orcel said in February, building an M&A business takes time: “You need to attract the right people, give them time to embed with the culture and the place, give them time with the client to get them to agree they can deliver for them, and then get them to deliver.” Bank of America’s Christian Meissner was more specific a few years’ ago: he told the Financial Times that building an M&A business takes three to five years once the right people are in place. This is why Goldman Sachs, for example, is happy to leave its relationship bankers alone to schmooze.
It’s no good if you quit before the schmoozing comes to anything, though. Nor is it any good if you’re unreachable while it’s taking place. This being an alleged failing of Jeff Urwin, the former head of corporate and investment banking who joined Deutsche from J.P. Morgan in 2015 and left again earlier this year. “Nobody could ever get hold of him, not even John [Cryan],” says one ex-Deutsche MD.
With Urwin out the way, Cryan himself is now in charge of Deutsche’s U.S. business, aided by Mark Fedorcik who heads corporate finance for the Americas. As the two men try building Deutsche’s market share, they won’t want to see any more talent walking out the door – especially when it was hired at a premium from rival banks.
If you’re good at Deutsche Bank, you should therefore be able to threaten to leave and get a pay rise. And if you’re not? You can take your chances and move. The only problem with this strategy is that rival banks are reportedly making subpar offers in the knowledge that Deutsche didn’t pay performance bonuses last year. In the worst case scenario then, you’ll jump out of Deutsche only to be underpaid elsewhere anyway. This is another reason to stay put.