In any normal year, bonuses would be the big topic of discussion at Deutsche Bank in the first quarter. This year, however, the issue of who was paid what is being eclipsed by potentially changes to senior management ahead of the bank's big strategy day in the second quarter.
Headhunters in London point to a succession of senior moves which they suggest could be the precursor to nasty alterations in the corporate and investment bank later in the year.
Yesterday it was reported that Raj Bhattacharyya, head of Deutsche's capital markets and treasury solutions business in Europe is moving to cover Latin America and being replaced in Europe by two existing Deutsche MDs, Niels Ackerman and Lorenzo Frontini. Bhattacharyya had been in his role since 2010.
The bigger changes have been in Deutsche's fixed income sales and trading business. In October 2014, the bank hired Sam Wisnia from Goldman Sachs as head of fixed income structuring, head of rates trading Europe and head of strategic analytics. In December, it announced the arrival of Kemal Askar as head of European flow rates trading from JPMorgan, despite already having a head of European flow rates trading in the form of Richard Jackson. Jackson's departure was subsequently announced at the end of January.
"It's always easier to reshape a business when you have new people in charge and there are no historical loyalties," says one headhunter, speaking on condition of anonymity. "All these moves at Deutsche are making people quite twitchy."
Deutsche declined to comment on its coming strategy day. However, insiders say Bhattacharyya's new role is simply a promotion offering him the opportunity of working out of New York.
Chris Wheeler, a banking analyst at Atlantic Equities, said Deutsche needs to clarify its position with investors. "With banks like Barclays, Citi and UBS, I can see where they're going. With Deutsche Bank it's not so clear - they want to be big in fixed income, asset management and retail banking, but none of these businesses is really performing." Analysts at Jefferies, for example, think Deutsche is making headway in areas like fixed income, however.
While Deutsche's bankers have the coming strategy shift looming particularly large, other financial services professionals also have reason to be fearful. Cuts are also said to be coming in Morgan Stanley's credit trading business and Credit Suisse is expected to make further cuts to its investment bank later this year.
In the circumstances, one fixed income headhunter says talk about job security has displaced talk about pay. "Only one client has called me this year asking about compensation," he says. "No one really cares about comp any more - everyone accepts that banking pay is now rubbish compared to the highs of a few years ago, but still OK versus almost every other walk of life."