Deutsche Bank asks top managers to waive one month’s pay

Deutsche Bank has asked hundreds of its top managers to waive a month’s salary in an act of “solidarity” to help share the pain as coronavirus wreaks unprecedented damage on the German economy.

In a conference call on Thursday, several hundred of the bank’s designated “leaders”, including many of those one level below the senior management committee, were urged to take the voluntary pay cut, people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times.

So far the bank does not know how many will participate in the programme. Deutsche confirmed the initiative and said the discussions were continuing.

“As our restructuring plans progress, the management board and the group management committee have decided to lead by example and give a broader group of senior managers the opportunity to be part of this initiative,” said Deutsche in a statement. “This is a voluntary measure in the entrepreneurial spirit and discipline [with which] we are running our company.”

The nine members of Deutsche’s management board, as well as those on the group management committee, have already agreed to forgo one month of their fixed pay.

Chief executive Christian Sewing told investors at the bank’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday that the decision was part of an acceleration of its cost-cutting programme. “We act in this way because we in the management . . . see ourselves as responsible business owners,” he said.

Germany’s largest lender is in the middle of a historic restructuring that began last summer and will cut 18,000 jobs by 2022 as it shrinks investment banking and trims its domestic retail branch network.

As a key interim target, Mr Sewing has promised to cut €2bn in costs this year and has stuck by this goal despite the difficulties presented by the coronavirus. In 2019, Deutsche paid out €8.4bn in fixed pay and €1.5bn in bonuses to staff. The number of employees earning more than €1m per year fell by 9 per cent to 583 last year.

In the first quarter, Deutsche recorded a €43m loss after tripling reserves for bad loans, as Europe’s economy stalled amid the lockdown to slow the pandemic. Despite a surge in investment bank trading revenue, executives admitted their ambition to make a pre-tax profit this year would now be difficult to achieve. 

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Analysts expect that the lender will report a full-year net loss of around €1.8bn, turning 2020 into the sixth consecutive annual loss.

“Staff are unhappy at this latest stage in our steady descent to the bottom,” said one of the managing directors asked to take a pay cut. A second person familiar with the internal discussions said that such a voluntary move would be “akin to a gift to the bank”.

Many top executives at European banks, including Santander, Barclays and HSBC, have taken voluntary cuts to their salary and bonuses, conscious of the optics of large pay packets at a time when millions are losing their jobs or being furloughed.