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Ackermann to lead Deutsche Bank

Josef Ackermann faces difficult challenges as he steers the future course of Deutsche Bank

(Keystone)

Swiss banker Josef Ackermann will crown his career on Thursday when he takes over Europe's largest bank, Germany's Deutsche Bank.

Shareholders of Deutsche Bank met on Wednesday to approve Ackermann, aged 54, as the new "speaker" of the bank's managing board (the Vorstand), replacing Rolf Breuer.

During the meeting Breuer said Deutsche Bank had to reinvent itself in some areas if it wanted to survive. "During the next 18 months we have to concentrate on internal matters, which means cutting costs and increasing our efficiency," he said.

The bank also announced that it will cut 365 jobs in the share dealing division, with branches in Europe and the United States being the most affected.

First foreigner

Ackermann will become the first foreigner to hold the position. Since joining the bank in 1996, he has put in a flawless performance, taking over the bank's international business and making investment banking Deutsche Bank's main earner.

"I suppose you could characterise him as a fairly modern banker. He's been in investment banking all his career so like most of these chaps, he's fairly ruthless when he needs to be," Barclays senior European banks analyst David Hussey told swissinfo.

"He's a very charismatic sort of person and very investor-relations and media friendly. He's certainly a politician," he added

Doctor and nurse

Born in canton St Gallen, the son of a doctor and a nurse, Ackerman studied at St Gallen University before joining the Swiss Credit Bank in 1977.

He spent 16 years at the bank working his way up the ranks, in particular orchestrating the integration of the Swiss Volksbank.

Ackermann took over as president of the management in 1993 but in a surprise move stepped down after only three years.

At the time of Ackermann's departure, the Swiss Credit Bank chairman, Rainer Gut, was creating the Credit Suisse Group, with former McKinsey man Lukas Mühlemann pencilled in as chief executive officer.

Ackermann was said to be dissatisfied with the number two position in the group as head of investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston and so a power struggle took place in which he lost and was forced to go.

"Good guy"

He was universally seen as the "good guy" when he left the bank, intimating that the reason for his departure was that he was not prepared to cut the 3,500 jobs outlined in Gut's restructuring plan.

Another explanation was that he wanted to give a new orientation to his career.

Ackermann's investment banking success at Deutsche Bank was rewarded in September 2000 when he was nominated "crown prince" to take over from Breuer.

Since then, he has set his sights on promoting the international business of Deutsche Bank and has modernised the bank's structure even before taking over at the helm.

He has cleared the way to act as an American-style chief executive, although Germany's corporate law does not permit such a function, preferring collective responsibility

Ackermann has reduced the managing board from eight members to five and created beneath it a 12-man group executive committee, chaired by himself.

by Robert Brookes


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