Von zur Mühlen explains Deutsche’s big bet on Asean
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Von zur Mühlen explains Deutsche’s big bet on Asean

In 2020, Deutsche Bank’s Asia chief, Alexander von zur Mühlen, placed more of his chips on fast-growing southeast Asia. As global firms diversify out of China, his prescience and willingness to deliver on his convictions is starting to pay off.

Photo: Mario Andreya

When Alexander von zur Mühlen was promoted to Asia-Pacific chief executive of Deutsche Bank in the middle of 2020, one of his first acts was to decide on the future of the bank in southeast Asia.

Deutsche had long been active in the region. Its presence in Japan and China stretches back to the 1870s, while it has been in India since the 1890s. Only later did the Association of southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-part of the region come quietly into view, with new offices opening in cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Manila from the 1960s onwards.

Deutsche’s focus was always a little sharper in the big markets of northeast Asia, and for good reason. Corporates in these countries were busy producing goods for the world to consume and they needed every financial tool available to help them do that.

Even mature Asean markets such as Malaysia or Thailand were of secondary interest to most global lenders and Deutsche tended to focus on delivering specific products, such as trade finance, foreign exchange and securities services, rather than the full suite. The bank was present across the region, but its operations were, by its own admission, patchily connected and uneven.

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