Deutsche Bank May Cut Bonuses If Revenue Stalls, CFO Says

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Deutsche bank
James von Moltke Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Deutsche Bank AG may cut bonuses if its revenue fails to grow, Chief Financial Officer James von Moltke said on Monday.

Variable compensation is one of several areas the lender has earmarked for further possible savings if necessary to achieve its profitability target, von Moltke said on a conference call with fixed-income investors. The reductions could be made if a challenging market environment makes it impossible for the bank to grow its top line, he indicated.

Deutsche Bank has seen eight consecutive quarters of falling revenue amid an effort by Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing to boost profitability. While Sewing cut costs more than expected last year, that was outpaced by a fall in revenue, making it the number one concern for analysts and investors. The bank expects to see growth in 2019 but that depends on markets being relatively benign, it said on Friday.

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Deutsche Bank is planning to slash bonuses for 2018 by at least 10 percent, though a final decision depends on the fourth quarter performance, people familiar with the matter have said. Revenue at the investment bank — which accounts for the lion’s share of the bank’s bonuses — dropped 5 percent in the final quarter, falling short of the consensus forecast and leading to a full-year pretax return on tangible equity of 0.9 percent for the unit, half of last year’s result.

Increasing revenue at Deutsche Bank this year will be challenging, given the continuing under performance of the investment bank, Berenberg analysts including Eoin Mullany wrote in a note on Monday. They consider the prospect of flat revenue in 2019 “optimistic,” according to the note.

The bank is likely to award less than 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in total bonuses, down from about 2.2 billion euros in 2017, people familiar with the matter said last month.

Shifting its cash pile held with the European Central Bank into higher-yielding assets is one way Deutsche Bank wants to achieve revenue growth. The plan, which it developed with the advisory arm of Cerberus Capital Management, could end up adding as much as 300 million euros to the top line von Moltke said on the Monday call. The bank may invest some of the money in peripheral sovereign bonds, he said.