Deutsche Bank AG is a German multinational investment bank and financial services company headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany, and dual-listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange.
The bank’s network spans 58 countries with a large presence in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. As of 2020, Deutsche Bank was the 21st largest bank in the world by total assets and 63rd in the world by market capitalization. As the largest German banking institution, it is a component of the DAX stock market index. It is considered a systemically important bank by the Financial Stability Board.
The company is a universal bank with four major divisions: Investment Bank, Corporate Bank, Private Bank and Asset Management (DWS). Its investment banking operations often command substantial deal flow.
According to the New Yorker, Deutsche Bank has long had an “abject” reputation among major banks, as it has been involved in major scandals across different issue areas.
History of Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank was founded in Berlin in 1870 as a specialist bank for financing foreign trade and promoting German exports. It subsequently played a large part in developing Germany’s industry, as its business model focused on providing finance to industrial customers. The bank’s statute was adopted on 22 January 1870, and on 10 March 1870, the Prussian government granted it a banking licence. The statute laid great stress on foreign business:
The object of the company is to transact banking business of all kinds, in particular, to promote and facilitate trade relations between Germany, other European countries, and overseas markets.
Three of the founders were Georg Siemens, whose father’s cousin had founded Siemens and Halske; Adelbert Delbrück and Ludwig Bamberger. Prior to the founding of Deutsche Bank, German importers and exporters were dependent upon British and French banking institutions in the world markets—a serious handicap in that German bills were almost unknown in international commerce, generally disliked and subject to a higher rate of a discount than English or French bills.
Founding members of Deutsche Bank
- Hermann Zwicker (Bankhaus Gebr. Schickler, Berlin)
- Anton Adelssen (Bankhaus Adelssen & Co., Berlin)
- Adelbert Delbrück (Bankhaus Delbrück, Leo & Co.)
- Heinrich von Hardt (Hardt & Co., Berlin, New York)
- Ludwig Bamberger (politician, former chairman of Bischoffsheim, Goldschmidt & Co)
- Victor Freiherr von Magnus (Bankhaus F. Mart Magnus)
- Adolph vom Rath (Bankhaus Deichmann & Co., Cologne)
- Gustav Kutter (Bankhaus Gebrüder Sulzbach, Frankfurt)
- Gustav Müller (Württembergische Vereinsbank, Stuttgart)
- Wilhelm Platenius, Georg Siemens and Hermann Wallich
The bank’s first domestic branches, inaugurated in 1871 and 1872, were opened in Bremen and Hamburg. Its first oversea-offices opened in Shanghai in 1872and London in 1873 followed by South American offices between 1874 and 1886. The branch opening in London, after one failure and another partially successful attempt, was a prime necessity for the establishment of credit for the German trade in what was then the world’s money centre.
Major projects in the early years of the bank included the Northern Pacific Railroad in the US and the Baghdad Railway (1888). In Germany, the bank was instrumental in the financing of bond offerings of steel company Krupp (1879) and introduced the chemical company Bayer to the Berlin stock market.
The second half of the 1890s saw the beginning of a new period of expansion at Deutsche Bank. The bank formed alliances with large regional banks, giving itself an entrée into Germany’s main industrial regions. Joint ventures were symptomatic of the concentration then underway in the German banking industry. For Deutsche Bank, domestic branches of its own were still something of a rarity at the time; the Frankfurt branch dated from 1886 and the Munich branch from 1892, while further branches were established in Dresden and Leipzig in 1901.
In addition, the bank rapidly perceived the value of specialist institutions for the promotion of foreign business. Gentle pressure from the Foreign Ministry played a part in the establishment of Deutsche Ueberseeische Bank in 1886 and the stake was taken in the newly established Deutsch-Asiatische Bank three years later, but the success of those companies showed that their existence made sound commercial sense.
In 1919, the bank purchased the state’s share of Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft (Ufa). In 1926, the bank assisted in the merger of Daimler and Benz.
The bank merged with other local banks in 1929 to create Deutsche Bank and Disconto-Gesellschaft. In 1937, the company name changed back to Deutsche Bank.
After Adolf Hitler came to power, instituting the Third Reich, Deutsche Bank dismissed its three Jewish board members in 1933. In subsequent years, Deutsche Bank took part in the aryanization of Jewish-owned businesses, provided the owners of “aryanized” businesses were in the know about their Jewish status beforehand; according to its own historians, the bank was involved in 363 such confiscations by November 1938. In 1938, German bank Mendelssohn & Co. was acquired.
During the war, Deutsche Bank incorporated other banks that fell into German hands during the occupation of Eastern Europe. Deutsche Bank provided banking facilities for the Gestapo and loaned the funds used to build the Auschwitz camp and the nearby IG Farben facilities.
During World War II, Deutsche Bank became responsible for managing the Bohemian Union Bank in Prague, with branches in the Protectorate and in Slovakia, the Bankverein in Yugoslavia (which has now been divided into two financial corporations, one in Serbia and one in Croatia), the Albert de Barry Bank in Amsterdam, the National Bank of Greece in Athens, the Creditanstalt-Bankverein in Austria and Hungary, the Deutsch-Bulgarische Kreditbank in Bulgaria, and Banca Comercială Română (The Romanian Commercial Bank) in Bucharest. It also maintained a branch in Istanbul, Turkey.
In 1999, Deutsche Bank confirmed officially that it had been involved in the Auschwitz camp. In December 1999, Deutsche, along with other major German companies, contributed to a US$5.2 billion compensation fund following lawsuits brought by Holocaust survivors; U.S. officials had threatened to block Deutsche Bank’s $10 billion purchase of Bankers Trust, a major American bank, if it did not contribute to the fund. The history of Deutsche Bank during the Second World War has since been documented by independent historians commissioned by the Bank.
Post-World War II
Following Germany’s defeat in World War II, the Allied authorities, in 1948, ordered Deutsche Bank’s break-up into regional banks. These regional banks were later consolidated into three major banks in 1952: Norddeutsche Bank AG; Süddeutsche Bank AG; and Rheinisch-Westfälische Bank AG. In 1957, these three banks merged to form Deutsche Bank AG with its headquarters in Frankfurt.
In 1959, the bank entered retail banking by introducing small personal loans. In the 1970s, the bank pushed ahead with international expansion, opening new offices in new locations, such as Milan (1977), Moscow, London, Paris, and Tokyo. In the 1980s, this continued when the bank paid U$603 million in 1986 to acquire Banca d’America e d’Italia.
In 1972, the bank established its Fiduciary Services Division which provides support to its private wealth division.
At 8:30am on 30 November 1989, Alfred Herrhausen, chairman of Deutsche Bank, was killed when a car that he was in exploded while he was traveling in the Frankfurt suburb of Bad Homburg. The Red Army Faction claimed responsibility for the blast.
In 1989, the first steps towards creating a significant investment-banking presence were taken with the acquisition of Morgan, Grenfell & Co., a UK-based investment bank which was renamed Deutsche Morgan Grenfell in 1994. In 1995 to greatly expand into international investments and money management, Deutsche Bank hired Edson Mitchell, a risk specialist from Merrill Lynch, who hired two other former Merrill Lynch risk specialists Anshu Jain and William S. Broeksmit.
By the mid-1990s, the buildup of a capital-markets operation had got underway with the arrival of a number of high-profile figures from major competitors. Ten years after the acquisition of Morgan Grenfell, the US firm Bankers Trust was added. Bankers Trust suffered losses during the 1998 Russian financial crisis since it had a large position in Russian government bonds, but avoided financial collapse by being acquired by Deutsche Bank for $10 billion in November 1998.
On 4 June 1999, Deutsche Bank merged its Deutsche Morgan Grenfell and Bankers Trust to become Deutsche Asset Management (DAM) with Robert Smith as the CEO. This made Deutsche Bank the fourth-largest money management firm in the world after UBS, Fidelity Investments, and the Japanese post office’s life insurance fund. At the time, Deutsche Bank-owned a 12% stake in DaimlerChrysler but United States banking laws prohibit banks from owning industrial companies, so Deutsche Bank received an exception to this prohibition through 1978 legislation from Congress.
Deutsche continued to build up its presence in Italy with the acquisition in 1993 of Banca Popolare di Lecco from Banca Popolare di Novara for about $476 million. In 1999, it acquired a minority interest in Cassa di Risparmio di Asti.
In the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. the Deutsche Bank Building in Lower Manhattan, formerly Bankers Trust Plaza, was heavily damaged by the collapse of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Demolition work on the 39-story building continued for nearly a decade and was completed in early 2011.
In October 2001, Deutsche Bank was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. This was the first NYSE listing after an interruption due to 11 September attacks. The following year, Josef Ackermann became CEO of Deutsche Bank and served as CEO until 2012 when he became involved with the Bank of Cyprus. Then, beginning in 2002, Deutsche Bank strengthened its U.S. presence when it purchased Scudder Investments. Meanwhile, in Europe,
Deutsche Bank increased its private-banking business by acquiring Rued Blass & Cie (2002) and the Russian investment bank United Financial Group (2005) founded by the United States banker Charles Ryan and the Russian official Boris Fyodorov which followed Anshu Jain’s aggressive expansion to gain strong relationships with state partners in Russia. Jain persuaded Ryan to remain with Deutsche Bank at its new Russian offices and later, in April 2007,
sent the president and chairman of the management board of VTB Bank Andrey Kostin’s son Andrey to Deutsche Bank’s Moscow office. Later, in 2008, to establish VTB Capital, numerous bankers from Deutsche Bank’s Moscow office were hired by VTB Capital. In Germany, further acquisitions of Norisbank, Berliner Bank and Deutsche Postbank strengthened Deutsche Bank’s retail offering in its home market.
This series of acquisitions was closely aligned with the bank’s strategy of bolt-on acquisitions in preference to so-called “transformational” mergers. These formed part of an overall growth strategy that also targeted a sustainable 25% return on equity, something the bank achieved in 2005.
On 1 October 2003, Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank entered into a payment transaction agreement with Postbank to have Postbank process payments as the clearing center for the three banks.
Since the mid-1990s Deutsche Bank commercial real estate division offered Donald Trump financial backing, even though in the early 1990s Citibank, Manufacturers Hanover, Chemical, Bankers Trust, and 68 other entities refused to financially support him.
In 2008, Trump sued Deutsche Bank for $3 billion and a few years later, he shifted his financial portfolio from the investment banking division to Deutsche Bank’s private wealth division with Rosemary Vrablic, formerly of Citigroup, Bank of America, and Merrill Lynch, becoming Trump’s new personal banker at Deutsche Bank.
In 2007, the company’s headquarters, the Deutsche Bank Twin Towers building, was extensively renovated for three years, certified LEED Platinum and DGNB Gold.
In 2010, the bank developed and owned the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, after the casino’s original developer defaulted on its borrowings. Deutsche Bank ran it at a loss until its sale in May 2014. The bank’s exposure at the time of sale was more than $4 billion and sold the property to Blackstone Group for $1.73 billion.
Housing credit bubble and CDO market
Deutsche Bank was one of the major drivers of the expansion of the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) market during the housing credit bubble from 2004 to 2008, creating about $32 billion worth. The 2011 US Senate Permanent Select Committee on Investigations report on “Wall Street and the Financial Crisis” analyzed Deutsche Bank as a case study of investment banking involvement in the mortgage bubble, CDO market, credit crunch, and recession.
It concluded that even as the market was collapsing in 2007, and its top global CDO trader was deriding the CDO market and betting against some of the mortgage bonds in its CDOs, Deutsche bank continued to churn out bad CDO products to investors.
The report focused on one CDO, Gemstone VII, made largely of mortgages from Long Beach, Fremont, and New Century, all notorious subprime lenders. Deutsche Bank put risky assets into the CDO, like ACE 2006-HE1 M10, which its own traders thought was a bad bond. It also put in some mortgage bonds that its own mortgage department had created but could not sell, from the DBALT 2006 series. The CDO was then aggressively marketed as a good product, with most of it being described as having A-level ratings. By 2009 the entire CDO was almost worthless and the investors (including Deutsche Bank itself) had lost most of their money.
Greg Lippmann, head of global CDO trading, was betting against the CDO market, with the approval of management, even as Deutsche was continuing to churn out products. He was a large character in Michael Lewis’ book The Big Short, which detailed his efforts to find ‘shorts’ to buy Credit Default Swaps (CDS) for the construction of Synthetic CDOs. He was one of the first traders to foresee the bubble in the CDO market as well as the tremendous potential that CDS offered in this.
As portrayed in The Big Short, Lipmann in the middle of the CDO and MBS frenzy was orchestrating presentations to investors, demonstrating his bearish view of the market, offering them the idea to start buying CDS, especially to AIG in order to profit from the forthcoming collapse. As regards the Gemstone VII deal, even as Deutsche was creating and selling it to investors, Lippman emailed colleagues that it ‘blew’,
and he called parts of it ‘crap’ and ‘pigs’ and advised some of his clients to bet against the mortgage securities it was made of. Lippman called the CDO market a ‘Ponzi scheme’, but also tried to conceal some of his views from certain other parties because the bank was trying to sell the products he was calling ‘crap’. Lippman’s group made money off of these bets, even as Deutsche overall lost money on the CDO market.
Deutsche was also involved with Magnetar Capital in creating its first Orion CDO. Deutsche had its own group of bad CDOs called START. It worked with Elliot Advisers on one of them; Elliot bet against the CDO even as Deutsche sold parts of the CDO to investors as good investments. Deutsche also worked with John Paulson, of the Goldman Sachs Abacus CDO controversy, to create some START CDOs. Deutsche lost money on START, as it did on Gemstone.
On 3 January 2014, it was reported that Deutsche Bank would settle a lawsuit brought by US shareholders, who had accused the bank of bundling and selling bad real estate loans before the 2008 downturn. This settlement came subsequent and in addition to Deutsche’s $1.93 billion settlement with the US Housing Finance Agency over similar litigation related to the sale of mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Leveraged super-senior trades
Former employees including Eric Ben-Artzi and Matthew Simpson have claimed that, during the crisis, Deutsche failed to recognize up to $12 billion of paper losses on its $130 billion portfolio of leveraged super senior trades, although the bank rejects the claims.A company document of May 2009 described the trades as “the largest risk in the trading book”,and the whistleblowers allege that had the bank accounted properly for its positions its capital would have fallen to the extent that it might have needed a government bailout.
One of them claims that “If Lehman Brothers didn’t have to mark its books for six months it might still be in business, and if Deutsche had marked its books it might have been in the same position as Lehman.”
Deutsche had become the biggest operator in this market, which were a form of credit derivative designed to behave like the most senior tranche of a CDO. Deutsche bought insurance against default by blue-chip companies from investors, mostly Canadian pension funds, who received a stream of insurance premiums as income in return for posting a small amount of collateral.
The bank then sold protection to US investors via the CDX credit index, the spread between the two was tiny but was worth $270m over the 7 years of the trade. It was considered very unlikely that many blue chips would have problems at the same time, so Deutsche required collateral of just 10% of the contract value.
The risk of Deutsche taking large losses if the collateral was wiped out in a crisis was called the gap option. Ben-Artzi claims that after modeling came up with “economically unfeasible” results, Deutsche accounted for the gap option first with a simple 15% “haircut” on the trades (described as inadequate by another employee in 2006) and then in 2008 by a $1–2bn reserve for the credit correlation desk designed to cover all risks, not just the gap option.
In October 2008, it stopped modeling the gap option and just bought S&P put options to guard against further market disruption, but one of the whistleblowers has described this as an inappropriate hedge. A model from Ben-Artzi’s previous job at Goldman Sachs suggested that the gap option was worth about 8% of the value of the trades, worth $10.4bn. Simpson claims that traders were not simply understating the gap option but actively mismarking the value of their trades.
European debt crisis, 2009-today
In 2008, Deutsche Bank reported its first annual loss in five decades, despite receiving billions of dollars from its insurance arrangements with AIG, including US$11.8 billion from funds provided by US taxpayers to bail out AIG.
Based on a preliminary estimation from the European Banking Authority (EBA), in late 2011, Deutsche Bank AG needed to raise capital of about €3.2 billion as part of a required 9% core Tier 1 ratio after sovereign debt write-down starting in mid-2012.
As of 2012, Deutsche Bank had negligible exposure to Greece, but Spain and Italy accounted for a tenth of its European private and corporate banking business with credit risks of about €18 billion in Italy and €12 billion in Spain.
In 2017 Deutsche Bank needed to get its common equity tier-1 capital ratio up to 12.5% in 2018 to be marginally above the 12.25% required by regulators.
In January 2014, Deutsche Bank reported a €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) pre-tax loss for the fourth quarter of 2013. This came after analysts had predicted a profit of nearly €600 million, according to FactSet estimates. Revenues slipped by 16% versus the prior year.
Deutsche Bank’s Capital Ratio Tier-1 (CET1) was reported in 2015 to be only 11.4%, lower than the 12% median CET1 ratio of Europe’s 24 biggest publicly traded banks, so there would be no dividend for 2015 and 2016. Furthermore, 15,000 jobs were to be cut.
In June 2015, the then co-CEOs, Jürgen Fitschen, and Anshu Jain, both offered their resignations to the bank’s supervisory board, which were accepted. Jain’s resignation took effect in June 2015, but he provided consultancy to the bank until January 2016. Fitschen continued as joint CEO until May 2016. The appointment of John Cryan as joint CEO was announced, effective July 2016; he became sole CEO at the end of Fitschen’s term.
In January 2016, Deutsche Bank pre-announced a 2015 loss before income taxes of approximately €6.1 billion and a net loss of approximately €6.7 billion. Following this announcement, a bank analyst at Citi declared: “We believe a capital increase now looks inevitable and see an equity shortfall of up to €7 billion, on the basis that Deutsche may be forced to book another €3 billion to €4 billion of litigation charges in 2016.”
In May 2017, Chinese conglomerate HNA Group became its biggest shareholder, owning 9.90% of its shares. However, HNA Group’s stake was reduced to 8.8% as of February 16, 2018.
In November 2018, the bank’s Frankfurt offices were raided by police in connection with investigations around the Panama papers and money laundering. Deutsche Bank released a statement confirming it would “cooperate closely with prosecutors”.
AUTO1 FinTech is a joint venture of AUTO1 Group, Allianz, SoftBank, and Deutsche Bank.
In February 2019, HNA Group announced a cutting of its stake in Deutsche Bank to 6.3 percent. It was further reduced to 0.19 percent as at March 2019.
During the Annual General Meeting in May 2019, CEO Christian Sewing said he was expecting a “deluge of criticism” about the bank’s performance and announced that he was ready to make “tough cutbacks” after the failure of the merger negotiations with Commerzbank AG and weak profitability. According to The New York Times, “its finances and strategy in disarray and 95 percent of its market value [has been] erased”. News headlines in late June 2019 claimed that the bank would cut 20,000 jobs,
over 20% of its staff, in a restructuring plan. On 8 July 2019, the bank began to cut 18,000 jobs, including entire teams of equity traders in Europe, the US, and Asia. On the previous day, Sewing had laid blame on unnamed predecessors who created a “culture of poor capital allocation” and chasing revenue for the sake of revenue, according to a Financial Times report, and promised that going forward, the bank “will only operate where we are competitive”.
In January 2020, Deutsche Bank had decided to cut the bonus pool at its investment branch by 30% following restructuring efforts.
In February 2021, it was reported that Deutsche Bank made a profit of €113 million ($135.6 million) for 2020, the first annual net profit it had posted since 2014.
In March 2021, Deutsche Bank sold about $4 billion of holdings seized in the implosion of Archegos Capital Management in a private deal. The move helped Deutsche Bank emerge unscathed after Archegos defaulted on margin loans used to build up highly leveraged bets on stocks.